A central Florida family has filed a state complaint against an Orange County private religious school that turned away their 6-year-old son because he wore dreadlocks.
Clinton Stanley Sr. attempted to enroll his son, C.J., into A Book's Christian Academy using a tax credit scholarship. The school had a policy in place that forbids boys from having hairstyles including "dreads, Mohawks, designs, unnatural color, or unnatural designs."
Stanley complained of racial discrimination back in August. His son's story received national attention. (See this USA Today article as an example.)
On Thursday, with the support of the ACLU and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, he took a formal stance, claiming the school violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
"Private schools participating in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program must comply with the oversight and accountability mechanisms of Florida law," NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyer Angel Harris wrote in a 9-page complaint. "Florida law requires private schools participating in state school choice scholarship programs, such as A Book's, to comply with the antidiscrimination provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."
The complaint states that the private school targeted an African-American hairstyle as a reason to prohibit access, creating racial discrimination.
It noted that the school's promotional video meanwhile featured a white boy with hair below his ears.
Stanley took his son to a nearby public school. But the damage had been done, the complaint alleges.
"Clinton Jr. has experienced significant emotional distress as a result of the incident on the first day of school. Mr. Stanley fears his son will feel shame or stigma because of his natural hair," it states. "This incident has also prompted Mr. Stanley to have difficult conversations with Clinton Jr. about race for the first time."
Stanley explained the rationale for his decision in a post on an ACLU blog.
"It's not right for a school to take taxpayer dollars while singling out and shaming Black natural hair," he wrote. "On behalf of my son and other Black children in my community, I'm urging the Florida Department of Education to hold A Book's Christian Academy accountable."
Courts have held that tax credit scholarships are not taxpayer funds, as they never enter state coffers.
Department of Education spokeswoman Audrey Walden said the state had just received the complaint and will be looking into it.
"The Florida Department of Education does not condone discrimination of any kind in Florida schools," Walden said.