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St. Kitts Woman Who Used To Live In St. Thomas Says She’s Standing Up For Her Son’s ‘Blackness’ Over School’s Dreadlocks Ban

NATTY DREAD: Malachi Wattley

TOLEDO — An Ohio parochial school’s prohibition against dreadlocks has a a former St. Thomas resident’s hair standing on end.

Central Catholic High School in Toledo, Ohio forbids students from wearing their hair in dreadlocks.

But that prohibition has sparked an intense debate over whether the policy unfairly targets a hairstyle with deep Afro-Caribbean roots.

For Maylin Wattley and her son, Malachi, 14, dreadlocks are not just a style choice; they are culturally and religiously significant.

Wattley was born on the island of St. Kitts, raised in St. Thomas, and is raising her son as a Rastafarian.

With his sister already enrolled at Central Catholic, Wattley said she enrolled her son in the school after receiving assurances from the principal at the time that his hair would not be a problem.

But, Wattley said, staff have begun disciplining her son for hair he has grown out since he was a toddler.

“I want my son Malachi to stand up for his blackness,” Wattley said. “I want him to be an example and to be proud of his roots and his culture.”

Central Catholic bans men from wearing what it calls “fad” hairstyles, including in that definition are “spikes, mohawks, dreadlocks, twisty’s, ponytails, carvings, or man-buns.” Kelly Donaghy, director of communications for the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, said there are incomplete records at Central Catholic because of recent changes in leadership, but the dreadlock prohibition has existed for at least several years.

Donaghy said the policy doesn’t single out any particular culture, pointing to the ban on hairstyles beyond dreadlocks.

“It’s not specific to dreadlocks, but it’s all haircuts that aren’t deemed professional and neat and tidy,” she said.

When asked if a policy that considers a traditionally Afro-centric hairstyle as not “professional and distinctive,” is culturally insensitive, Donaghy pointed to the other prohibited hairstyles.

“I don’t believe we are looking at this as a distinctly black hairstyle,” Donaghy said. “It’s not about a race or any one individual, it’s about following a policy that’s in place.”

Wattley said she views the policy, which refers to a culturally significant hairstyle as unprofessional, as racially motivated.

Diocesan officials said students with concerns about school policy should address them through the proper internal channels.

The diocese hasn’t been asked to address the dreadlocks ban before, Donaghy said.

“It has been determined that this hairstyle as well as many others are not appropriate for kids in the Catholic school system,” Donaghy said. “So if students and parents feel we are wrong, then they need to go through the proper channels so that a change can be made.”

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands since 1989. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

4 Comments

  1. Dillard
    September 1, 2017 at 7:49 PM — Reply

    This whole scenario is extremely strange .
    This must be a joke
    Mother is raising son as a Rastafarian and chose to send him to a Catholic school .
    No true Rasta would entertain such a thing , the school probably knows this and therefore classify him and his locks as a fad ,and fake .
    Two totally different religions and beliefs .
    Good luck with this one .
    Praise Jah ,
    Rastafari

    • Choo
      September 2, 2017 at 9:10 AM — Reply

      I nearly spit out my juice. Chups. Stchupidness….she deliver the boy straight into Delilah’s den. Smh

  2. Choo
    September 2, 2017 at 9:08 AM — Reply

    BUH HOW SHE RAISING A RASTA AND SENDING HE CATHOLIC SCHOOL???? Lmao!!!! Yea, she need to throw in that towel. Smh….

    • Dillard
      September 2, 2017 at 10:22 AM — Reply

      Preach the Truth !! Rasta praising the Pope ?
      What Next.. Transgender Rastafari lol .
      #Hotta Fire judgement

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