jon ruby

Just because you can't make it work, Jon.

A barrister has been ordered by his chambers to delete a tweet calling a black teenager 'stroppy' after she and her family fought her school when it banned her afro.

Jon Holbrook of Cornerstone Barristers tweeted that the Equality Act "undermines school discipline by empowering the stroppy teenager of colour".

Holbrook was commenting in response to a video produced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It described how the EHRC had assisted teenager Ruby Williams and her parents when Williams was sent home repeatedly by her school for having an afro hair style. The school maintained that Williams's hair contravened its rule that afros had to be "of a reasonable size and length".

"I could just see me daughter, kind of, withering away in front of me", said her father. "It's really been two years of being stopped in corridors and being told my hair is too big", said Williams. The teenager was awarded £8,500.

Holbrook, who also writes for online libertarian magazine Spiked, was crucified on social media for suggesting that the Equality Act was propelling schools towards lawlessness by permitting black students to have great hair.

jon tweet


"Who said anything about Ruby being stroppy?" said one poster. "If you did your homework before flapping your gums you’d know that Afro hair grows outwards and upwards NATURALLY!!!! Why should we be made to chemically alter our hair, in order to be afforded an education?" 

Lawyer Anya Palmer added that the Equality Act didn't empower stroppy teenagers of colour, but "provides a remedy against schools that discriminate unlawfully by singling out black kids for extra rules about their hairstyles".

Williams's mum thanked Holbrook, however. "By trying to say she was in the wrong... you've actually highlighted this awful form of discrimination again", she said.

jon dream


Some went further, accusing Holbrook of racism and calling for sanctions to be imposed by the Bar Standards Board. Twitter rebuffed calls to delete his tweet, concluding that the barrister's comment did not breach its rules.

However, Holbrook‘s chambers has commenced an investigation and, in the meantime, said it had asked him to delete his remark. "We want to make it very clear that Cornerstone Barristers repudiates the tweet and all it insinuates", it said. "The individual has been asked to delete the tweet immediately and permanently and we are undertaking an urgent internal investigation into the mater".

Holbrook has stood firm, leaving his tweet to grow a ratio so outsized it may soon require its own ECHR representation.

"Because the law commands a particular outcome (diversity) those who challenge it are seen as ripe for censure", said Holbrook. "This is wrong because in a democracy everyone should be afforded the same practical reality of being able to express their views."

"There is a woke tyranny that is so unsure of its arguments that it invariably responds to its critics by seeking to silence and cancel them", he said.

Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 29 January 21 08:54

Classic case of double standards - hard to see that he's said anything incorrect.

If you told a white male pupil that he needed to get a haircut (a short back and sides, because he'd come in with a barnet like a prime Ozzy Osbourne and looked like a hippy) then nobody would bat an eyelid.

But say it about someone with an afro and people lose their minds and start claiming you want them to 'chemically alter' themselves. You see the hysteria on Twitter and you'd think the KKK had risen from the grave and were setting up a gallows on Hyde Park Corner.

Just go to the barbers and get a trim ffs - it's not a big deal. 


It's not genocide, it's a number three clipper.

Smee 29 January 21 09:02

Anon at 08:54. Tell me how many times a girl with long straight hair has been asked to go to the barbers for a trim? Once upon a never. This isn’t double standards, this is ignorantly undermining heritage that doesn’t suit the narrative. 

Anonymous 29 January 21 09:04

@anonymous 08:54

It's about double standards, but not in the way you are suggesting. If all girls with non afro hair had been told to get a number 3 clipper cut then you would have a point, but they haven't been. If girls generally are allowed to keep long natural hair then the school is applying double standards and discriminating against afro hair by requiring it to be cut short

Spotty Lizard 29 January 21 09:04

All the home-schooling IT equipment for children that that money could have been used for instead, were it not apparently now racist to tell someone to get a hair-cut. 

Surely this is a far, far cry from the cases of genuine inequality that the Act was intended to address. 

Anonymous 29 January 21 09:16

@09:02 - what are you talking about? What "narrative" is "undermining" what "heritage"?

It's just a word salad of progressive sounding catchphrases with no apparent underlying point.


I know for a fact that both male and female pupils at my former school were told to (a) get haircuts, (b) get rid of hair-dye, and (c) to stop coming in with attempted 'dreadlocks'. It was always considered completely benign, in exactly the same way as being told to tuck your shirt in, do up your top button, and stop wearing your tie like a bandana.

But on this one, everyone is going nuts over it because apparently this is a sacred hair style that nobody can criticise, all because you can artificially dress it up as a 'race' issue. It's completely mad.

Anonymous 29 January 21 09:21

@09:04 - yes, it's another one that goes into the big pile of cases that make the general public think that equalities / human rights legislation is a nonsense that serves only to protect selfish idiots and to enrich greedy lawyers. 

Putting an end to these kinds of trivial 'stop bloody moaning' cases would do a lot to restore public faith in the system. But continuing to pretend that this kind of minor crap is worthy of protection, and failing to proactively improve the system and to redirect it back towards its original intentions, puts us in genuine danger of the electorate eventually throwing the whole system out because they're sick of lawyers failing to fix it on their own - which would obviously be a dreadful mistake.

Anonymous 29 January 21 09:40

Once again we see that racism is alive and well in members of the the legal profession. 

Afro hair is natural. It’s part of this young person’s identify as much as her skin colour. Having straight or short hair is not the norm just as having white skin isn’t the norm. 

Anonymous 29 January 21 09:41

@9:16 anonymous 

there is so much in your message that just screams white privilege. Suppose you’ll take exception to that phrase of course as being a “word salad of progressive sounding catchphrases with no apparent underlying point”

Afro hair is natural and for many an integral part of their identity as a black person. It is absolutely a race issue. Just like not being able to comprehend anything other than white skin and straight hair is integral to your identity. 

Your appeal to your former school made me p— myself laughing. 


Paul 29 January 21 09:53

I can't believe his chambers is being so supine.  Are barristers not allowed to venture an opinion on a legal matter now?  'Equality' as a principle is fine but is open to interpretation in view of the fact that individuals are not identical (as demonstrated by other comments above).  Feel free to disagree but don't make unfounded accusations of racism.

Anonymous 29 January 21 09:55


I completely agreed.

Can people please take a step back and look at the facts? The school wasn't saying she needed to become a skin head, it needed to be "of a reasonable size and length".

I am a guy and when I was in high school, I had long messy goth style hair. I got in trouble. Did I sue the school? No, because I'm not a tw@t.

Anonymous 29 January 21 09:56


Oh shut up.

It is absolutely not a race issue. It was about school uniformity and following rules by maintaining a neat hairstyle - she was specifically allowed a neat afro.

Ok boomer 29 January 21 10:10

Lol at the idea that white schoolgirls across the country are regularly required by their teachers to get a haircut when their hair is too long.  We all know this has never happened. 

Anonymous 29 January 21 10:13

@09:41 - nobody has suggested that afro hair is not 'natural'. They've just said that it needs a trim.


Also, who exactly are you accusing of saying that 'straight' hair is the 'norm'? You seem to be the only person on this thread trying to make that argument. 

Everyone else just seems to be in favour of regular haircuts.


At the risk of ending up off topic - it does seem to be a very 'progressive' tendency to accuse others of saying things that they've never even suggested.

Charlotte 29 January 21 10:19

Of course it's a race issue. Her hair is probably no longer than any of the straight haired caucasian girls but, due to her race, it sits differently. The school was saying it was too big due to something natural to her race. Even if you take out the heritage aspect of how much an affro means to a black woman, this is still a race issue.

Unless it's an issue of safety, the school has no business telling any pupil to cut their hair.

Hironymous Nonnymous 29 January 21 10:32

This didn't have to be a race issue. Holbrook could have made the point that this young woman was using the Equality Act to ensure that she could attend school with a hairstyle of her preference rather than of the school's preference. 

But by seizing on afro hair and referring to Ruby Williams as a "stroppy teenager of colour" Holbrook most certainly has made the whole thing into a race issue. 

By the way, both he and pretty much everyone here have missed a much larger point. There is a reason that schools insist on pupils wearing a uniform. It isn't just about compliance and conformity, it is about teaching young people to take pride in their appearance, and I see nothing about Ruby Williams to suggest she fails that test. Quite the reverse. 

ESCW 29 January 21 10:40

I have straight hair naturally.  It therefore takes me zero effort to keep it within the school's rules - I can leave the house with it wet, let it dry naturally and then stick a hairtie in it.  For someone with afro hair, getting their hair to mimic mine takes significant effort.


The reverse would be a school rule that required all pupils to maintain a "natural afro" looking hair style.  It would cost me significant time and money to comply, because that's not how my hair responds naturally.  Such a rule would have people shouting from the rooftops about the unfairness.


The "all must wear afros" rules is unfair as the current school rules.


As for the length of the hair - Ruby's hair is naturally shoulder length.  I'm not aware of any school which has told girls to cut their hair of any length - let alone suggesting shoulder length is too long.  If the length rule only applies to afros because they grow out and not down, then that seems pretty obviously a racist rule.

Anonymous 29 January 21 11:12

When your privilege is so engrained and your norms so pervasive that you can't actually see them... that's racism.

Anonymous 29 January 21 11:51

@anonymous 10:13 you claim that you accept that Afro hair is natural yet you then mention “regular haircuts”.... what’s regular? What standard are you using to assess what is regular? 

Anonnnn 29 January 21 11:57

@8:54 and anyone else supporting the barrister's tweet - you are thick and/or racist and/or ignorant. 

The girl has a natural afro. Look at the picture. This afro would be the same length as that of any white/Asian female pupils in her class with straight hair - maybe even shorter. But this girl was sent home, simply because of the fact that her hair was in its natural state.

Let that sink in. If you still don't get it, read it again until you do.

To the commenter above who tried to use their old goth hairstyle as an appropriate comparison for this scenario - eh? Was that your hair in its natural state? No.

To the commentor above who banged on about a grade 3 clipper - what are you on about? We're talking here about a young black girl that was singled out against other pupils for having her natural hair. 

This comment section is a shining example of the sheer number of privileged legal professionals (yes, privileged - you work in one of the most important and sought after industries on earth) who have a severe lack of empathy and understanding of racial issues in the UK. AKA - your head is up uour a***.

Anonymous 29 January 21 12:20

It's so strange to read all of these comments in which people are trying to insert their own odd ideas about 'straight' hair being demanded, or about the notion that asking for hair to be cut is somehow suggesting that the hair isn't 'natural'. 

Literally nobody is saying that her hair isn't natural or that it has to be straight. That's all in your heads. You're having a discussion about your own personal hangups that nobody else here has talked about.

There is no 'privilege' in being accused of thinking or saying things that you've never uttered.


All people are just saying that the school is well within its rights to say her hair needs a cut. It's completely inoffensive. 

You are the only ones who seem to be preoccupied with the fact that she is black.

Anonymous 29 January 21 12:21

@11:57 - You are all thick, racist, ignorant, deplorable xenophobes!



Vote Labour!

Anonymous 29 January 21 12:28

@11:51 - what does the regularity of haircutting have to do with whether or not the hair being cut is 'natural'? Could you please explain?


Like, if I cut my hair more regularly than every 8 weeks does it suddenly become artificial or paranormal or something? Or do I have to leave it untouched for 6 months before it is suddenly classified as being an occult object from a parallel dimension?

Does washing it make a difference at all?

Jellymonster 29 January 21 12:49

Holbrook, who also writes for online libertarian magazine Spiked... 

Doesn't seem a very libertarian stance for someone who writes for a libertarian magazine. Funny how libertarianism tends to actually mask other stuff...


Toby Greenlord, Muncher of the Rolls 29 January 21 13:27

It's his own fault.

If he'd said "stroppy teenager" or "stroppy people" it wouldn't have created the same fuss.

It would have been pointed out to him that he is an idiot and people who have had their human rights infringed have got good reasons to be stroppy, if that is what they are being.

But he had to make it about people of colour, as if stroppiness rather than in infringement is the issue and as if that stroppiness is specific to people of colour.

I believe the technical term for such a lawyer is "arsehole".

Anonymous 29 January 21 15:06

Jellymonster: There's rarely anything truly libertarian about 'Spiked'.  It's a mask for exactly the type of unpleasant person you describe.

Anonymous 29 January 21 15:17

I support the school's right to maintain discipline and dress codes.

I also think that that Holbrook is an odious man and this was a very ill-judged Tweet that, at the least, could be seen as racist.

Does that mean a thumbs down from everyone?

Anonymous 30 January 21 21:09

Anonymous 29 January 21 15:17

I support the school's right to maintain discipline and dress codes.


Do you support the school if it chooses to enforce rules differently depending on the racial characteristics of the pupil?

That is the point at issue.

No-one is saying the school can't have a dress code or maintain discipline.  They should, however, make and enforce those rules fairly and consistently regardless of race.

They did not do that in this case.

Scouser of Counsel 31 January 21 16:01

Would have thought that a libertarian would have supported her right to wear her hair however she wanted, frankly.

The only way that this is not a race issue (quite apart from the fact that he made it one by commenting about her colour), would be if the school specified a hair length for girls, eg 6 inches.

In the case of a white girl with straight hair, no doubt this would be measured downwards. In this young woman’s case, it would be measured outwards.


Unless the school are doing that with white girls whose hair grows down as far as hers grows out, then this is absolutely an equality issue.

Anonymous 31 January 21 16:47

Today's stroppy person of tomorrow's angry black woman.   Classic racist trope.

Anonymous 01 February 21 09:36

Paul 29 January 21 09:53

I can't believe his chambers is being so supine.  Are barristers not allowed to venture an opinion on a legal matter now?

Imo he got off lightly.  I don't think he gave an opinion on a legal matter. It reads like an ad hominem attack on a whole race to me.

I don't think he's done his chambers any favours.

Apart from the ethical aspect and reputational damage, corporate clients with equality policies could be inclined to find legal representation elsewhere.

JE 01 February 21 12:43

I am very glad to see some sensible voices of RoF condemning this. 

The tweet implied that there is a 'thing', a stereotype, called 'the stroppy teenager of colour' - i.e. something over and above 'the stroppy teenager' generally. 

This is not a borderline case - it is plainly and crassly racist and those defending Mr Holbrook need to pause and think seriously about this. There is no place for this in the profession or society generally and it is a disgrace that someone in a respected position has spoken in this way and introduced this idea to the public discourse. 

Can we forget the woke/anti-woke culture wars on this occasion and just condemn clear racism?

Roscoe P. Coltrane 01 February 21 12:55

The school would have been on safer ground if it just demanded hair be no longer than 20cm (or whatever).


”Reasonable length” is needlessly subjective.


”Reasonable size” is needlessly subjective, and appears designed to favour straight over curly hair, which will disproportionately restrict black pupils.

Dearie 01 February 21 13:54

It's a shame the article doesn't reference Holbrook's own detailed legal analysis of the case which centres on the application of law and "reasonableness" of their rules. The tweet was poor and offensive but which will likely cost him his job as he's now been kicked out of chambers. This is why I've deleted twitter because its an offensive place where it seems no one can handle offence.


The impugned school uniform policy required “Afro style hair, including buns, to be of a reasonable size and length”. A policy premised on reasonableness should not be outlawed as discriminatory. 

Anonymous 01 February 21 17:00

@ Roscoe P. Coltrane 01 February 21 12:55


With hair that isn't straight, how would you measure the 20cm?


Anonymous 01 February 21 18:03

It's a shame the article doesn't reference Holbrook's own detailed legal analysis of the case which centres on the application of law and "reasonableness" of their rules. The tweet was poor and offensive but which will likely cost him his job as he's now been kicked out of chambers. This is why I've deleted twitter because its an offensive place where it seems no one can handle offence.

It's a shame Holbrook's tweet made him sound like a massive racist without the capacity to understand the application of law and "reasonableness".

Twitter didn't make him to that.  He did it all on his own.  And his subsequent tweet where he talks about fighting "woke culture" makes it clear that it wasn't an accident.

Stop making excuses for him.

Anonymous 02 February 21 08:02

It's a shame the article doesn't reference Holbrook's own detailed legal analysis of the case 

Thanks Jon, but the article is about the idiotic tweet.  

Can you explain the thought process that motivated you to publish that?

Anonymous 02 February 21 08:49

This isn't about a haircut, it's about a barrister who feels it is appropriate to use the heavily laden dog-whistle phrase, "stroppy teenager of colour". 

Seeing as there is so much conjecture about whether a non-white girl would be allowed hair of similar length, perhaps we should consider a scenario where a school allows large afro haircuts but prohibits girls from having waist-length hair and wonder whether this guy would have used the phrase "stroppy white girl" in such circumstances? 

Over It 02 February 21 17:40

The humans race is doomed if these comments are anything to go by. Can we have another ice age already? 

Anonymous 02 February 21 18:45

The humans race is doomed if these comments are anything to go by. Can we have another ice age already? 

Or you could stop being a drama queen.

Racism is bad, mmmkay.

anon 03 February 21 09:53

I fail to see why he had to include ' of colour' in the tweet. It has a nasty undertone to it is how I read it. He claims, apparently, that it was required for context. To my mind, such an explanation is disingenuous at best. A cursory read would tell anyone that the subject matter was a girl who had Afro hair. So no further context required. I think he was just being nasty. Why not just say ' stroppy teenager'? She may well have been there are plenty of them! I have no idea of the full context, but there was just no need for the innuendo and I suspect it is that, which has caused such a backlash. And rightly so.

School rules on dress codes and things like hair styles are usually there for a reason. In this day and age I think most of us would agree that anyone wearing their hair how they like is not something up for debate. If reasons of safety were involved as they often are, then that is a different matter. I recall my school days where girls were required to wear their hair up before they entered a science lab for example. This was purely so that there was no chance for hair to become tangled in heavy machinery or become exposed to naked flames. So a sensible rule. Why could the school not have asked her to do that? It feels like the reasons for the rules were totally lost in the melee.

Sounds like the school handled it badly hence the agreed damages. As with all of these types of cases, there will have been a point in time where it could have been dealt with sensitively and sensibly. Whether it was or not, the innuendo in the tweet was unkind and unnecessary. I would fully expect the boot from my firm or severe discipline if I tweeted something similar. Lawyers are held to a high standard for a reason. For me, he fell beneath that standard.


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