Mom Sues NYC Catholic School After Son Told He Can't Wear Braids

What to Know

  • A Catholic school ins Queens is being sued after allegedly telling an 8-year-old student he can't wear his braids to school
  • Lavona Batts filed the lawsuit Monday against Immaculate Conception Catholic Academy in Jamaica, according to her lawyer
  • The suit alleges discrimination and violation of the New York City and State Human Rights Law

On the very first day at J.B.'s new school, the New York City third-grader was told his hair was unacceptable and he was given five days to change his hairstyle.

In response, Lavona Batts, the 8-year-old's mother, filed a lawsuit Monday against the Immaculate Conception Catholic Academy in Queens, alleging discrimination and violation of the New York City and State Human Rights Law.

When J.B.'s grandmother Joan dropped him off at school on Sept. 4, J.B. was wearing his hair in braids as he normally does, the complaint said. He's very proud of his hair as it is an important part of his identity. 

But when she returned to pick him up at the end of the day, Joan said she found her grandson standing with the school principal and other administrators. 

"We don't accept this," the principal allegedly told the grandmother as he rubbed J.B.'s head and said his hair was against school policy.

The principal then told Joan that they had until Sept. 9 to change J.B.'s hair. Left feeling embarrassed and distressed, J.B. told his grandmother and mother that he didn't want to change his hair, the lawsuit said.

Batts says she enrolled her son, who is black, at the private school in Jamaica in August and paid a $275 registration fee, according to the complaint. She also spent an addition of $250 on school uniforms.

She tried to contact the principal the following days to work something out but she was told twice that the principal was "busy." Batts then decided to unenroll her son from the Catholic school and enrolled him in a public school.

New York City Commission on Human Rights issued an anti-discrimination guidance earlier this year that says New Yorkers have the right to "maintain natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic or cultural identities."

Also in July, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law that bans discrimination against natural hair in workplaces and schools.

Batts told the NY Daily News that she doesn't want other children to go through what her son went through. 

Instances of hair discrimination against African-Americans have made headlines. Just last month in New Jersey, a wrestling referee was suspended for telling a high school student to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit the match.

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