Why black hair in school environments is still an issue in this, the year of our Lord 2017, is beyond me. But here we are, yet again. This time, in an apparent sudden enforcement of the “rules,” black students at a charter school in Malden, Mass., have been subject to punishment over braids (yes, the same hairstyle almost every little black girl has had at least once). And parents are upset.
According to the Boston Globe, Colleen Cook, whose twin 15-year-old daughters, Deanna and Mya, attend the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, have been subject to several detentions since last week and now could actually be suspended from school over their hairstyle.
“They teach them at a very high academic level and I appreciate that, and that’s why they go to the school,” Cook said. “But unfortunately, they don’t have any sensitivity to diversity at all.”
Two other mothers of black or biracial children said that their kids have also been punished because of their braids.
Mystic Valley is attempting to defend its actions by stating that its rules are meant to promote education rather than style, fashion and materialism—thus reducing visible gaps among those of different means.
“One important reason for our students’ success is that we purposefully promote equity by focusing on what unites our students and reducing visible gaps between those of different means,” the school said in a statement, according to the Globe. “Our policies, including those governing student appearance and attire, foster a culture that emphasizes education rather than style, fashion, or materialism. Our policy on hair extensions, which tend to be very expensive, is consistent with, and a part of, the educational environment that we believe is so important to our students’ success.”
However, some parents just see the policy as racist. More than 40 percent of the school’s students are young people of color—and 17 percent of those students are black, the Globe notes.
The twins’ mother is arguing that the policy against hair extensions and braids disproportionately affects black students. The twins are otherwise model students. Mya is actually in the National Honor Society, according to the report, with a 3.79 GPA, while Deanna maintains a 3.3. GPA.
The student handbook does state that extensions are prohibited, along with hair coloring, makeup, nail polish and tattoos. However, the twins’ mom still feels a type of way about the policy toward extensions. Cook, who is white and adopted the twins along with their three other siblings, said that the braided hair “gives them pride. They want to partake in their culture.”
She also said that the girls have worn their hair in a similar manner before and never had any issues until late April, when administrators suddenly brought the hammer down after spring break.
According to Kathy Granderson, her biracial daughter, Jaden, was one of about 20 girls taken to the administrators’ office last week and asked whether their braids had any “fake” hair. Granderson said that half the girls ended up in detention, but her daughter did not.
“They marched black and biracial children down the hall” and inspected their hair, Cook said.
“This is not right, and you have to take a stand for your children,” Granderson said. “I don’t want my daughter and son [to] think they aren’t good enough.”
Cook’s daughters refused to remove their braids and have since served an hour of detention before school starts each day, and nearly an hour afterward. They have also been kicked out of after-school sports—which especially hurts Deanna, who is on the school’s track team—and even banned from the prom.
Cook has been in contact with the NAACP and the state’s Anti-Defamation League looking for help. The ADL is planning to meet with school administrators Friday, Cook confirmed.
Meanwhile, other black girls at the school have faced even harsher punishments.
Lauren Kayondo, 15, was initially told that she would have to serve detention, but when she refused to take out her braids this week, she was suspended, her mother, Annette Namuddu, told the Globe.
“It’s discrimination,” Namuddu said. “I see white kids with colored hair, and you are not supposed to color your hair, and they walk around like it’s nothing.”
Namuddu, who feels that the school is picking on black children, said that Lauren has been returning home from school in tears.
“My daughter is a good student. Never gets in trouble,” Namuddu said. “Lauren was having difficulty in mathematics, but they should be helping her out instead of putting her in detention.”
Read more at the Boston Globe.