APOPKA, Fla. — Three civil liberties groups, including the ACLU of Florida, have filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Education on behalf of a 6-year-old boy denied attendance to a private school because of his hairstyle.
- Boy denied admission to Florida private school because of dreadlocks
- A Book's Christian Academy says hair violates the school's dress code
- ACLU, other groups have filed complaint with state Education Department
Classes at A Book's Christian Academy in Apopka were in session Tuesday, but in August, 6-year-old Clinton Stanley Jr. was not allowed to attend the first day of school because his dreadlocked hair violated the school's dress code.
"It doesn't just deal with dreads, you have to have boys hair off their ears, off the back of their neck, (and) they cannot have a mohawk," said John Butler Book Sr., chairman of A Book's Christian Academy.
Book said most of the students attending the school are African-American.
He stands by the school's hair policy, as does at least one parent at the school.
"I do not have any problems with the dress policy. It makes it very easy to know the rules. They're set," parent Angel Vinson said.
But the ACLU, which has challenged similar policies across the country, thinks the policy is discriminatory.
"We view it as a practice and pattern of behavior on the part of school districts that actually denies children their fundamental right to an education for a very unreasonable basis," said Nancy Abudu, ACLU of Florida's legal director.
The recently filed complaint asks to suspend state scholarship funding to A Book's Christian Academy.
"Because this private school decided on its own that it was going to accept government dollars, it is therefore subject to government laws. And one of those laws is not to discriminate against a child based on his ethnic or racial, cultural identity," Abudu said.
The possibility of losing her children's scholarship funding is a big worry for Vinson.
"The scholarships are a blessing," she said. "There is no other way for me to afford to put... all three children into a private school. I'd have to take a second mortgage."
Book said a majority of his students depend on the scholarship money.
"So you are afraid kids won't be able to come here? Well, they won't have the money, they won't have the money. And that is not only here, it's true of most every private school out here," Book said.
Book said he intends to fight the complaint, and for now, doesn't plan to change the school's hair policy.