A British mother accused her daughter’s academy of discrimination after the teen apparently ran afoul of the school's “extreme haircuts” policy by shaving her head for a charity that makes wigs for children with illnesses.
Anneka Baldwin said her 14-year-old daughter Niamh was placed in isolation at the Mounts Bay Academy in Penzance on Thursday after cutting her hair over the Christmas break and donating it to Little Princess Trust.
“I think this is the most courageous and amazing thing to do and makes me so proud, that's why I am so upset that the school has made her feel so low and put her in to isolation because her hair needs to be 1cm longer to be able to join in with classes and be allowed to see her peers in the playground,” Baldwin wrote in a Facebook post.
Baldwin said Niamh has always received positive reports and feedback from her teachers at the school, located in the southwestern tip of England.
“This doesn't change because of a hair style and to me it is discrimination !!! I'm actually fuming !” Baldwin wrote.
The family told Cornwall Live that Niamh didn’t attend school on Friday after the incident, but the school, which describes itself on its website as a place “where the rigid schooling models of the past are giving way to an exploration of 21st century learning and living,” is doubling down on their policies.
"The policy on extreme haircuts in school is very clear and has been published in our behavior policy for many years,” Principal Sara Davey told Cornwall Live. “Extreme haircuts including head shaving have never been allowed and this is common for schools across the UK.”
A behavior policy document on the academy’s website that outlines its “hierarchy of consequences” says students will be placed in the inclusion room if they “have extreme hair styles (principal’s discretion).”
The academy’s website says nothing below a grade two haircut is allowed for boys, according to Cornwall Live.
Davey said the school supports students who want to raise money for charities but said she was surprised the Baldwins didn’t approach them before Niamh shaved her head.
"Since returning to school Niamh has had access to her lessons in the inclusion room as we have extensive materials available to students,” Davey said. “This includes lesson activities and resources via digital technology.
Davey added: "All students know that this is the school policy and they also know that the consequence is to complete school work in the inclusion room until the hair grows so that is it no longer extreme."
Davey said she plans to meet with Anneka Baldwin on Monday to try to resolve the situation, but suggested to Cornwall Live that Niamh should wear a headscarf while her hair grows back.