Dunedin school allows students to wear cornrows after significant backlash

Lewis O'Malley-Scott
Lewis O'Malley-Scott Photo credit: Supplied

A Dunedin school has backtracked on its decision to stop a teenager wearing cornrows after backlash from the community.

 King's High School revised it's uniform policy after year 12 student Lewis O'Malley-Scott was told his cornrows were "too extreme".

The 16-year-old had been wearing cornrows for four months when he was told to remove the hair braid. 

"He [the principal] didn't like my hair being in its natural state because it's 'too extreme'," O'Malley-Scott told Newshub.

"He says he wants me to tie it up like a man bun but I'm not able to do that because the bit of the front won't be able to reach.

"I've explained to him it's part of my culture. It's the only practical way I can tie down my hair for work."

On Thursday principal Nick McIvor issued a statement reversing his decision to ban the cornrows, saying "significant cultural need" would be considered when hairstyles were considered. 

The decision follows significant backlash over McIvor's braid banning, spurred by a Facebook post from O'Malley-Scott's sister Ori.

In the post, Ori shared her concern over the "racist" decision from the school.

"If you don't know already, we are African American, cornrows are part of our culture. They are used as a protective style to help promote growth and healthy hair as well as having deep traditional connections to our African roots," she said.

"This, in itself, is nothing less than casual racism. The connotation that traditional hairstyles are dirty, lazy, messy, unprofessional, etc go way back to when integration was happening in America, when black men and women were first ridiculed or denied jobs for their traditional hair in the 1950s."

The post received hundreds of comments in support of O'Malley-Scott, urging him to contact politicians and media outlets with his story.