A Mississippi mother is speaking out to ensure that other kids know they can speak up, after her 8-year-old was made to change out of her "Black Girls Rock!" shirt while at Popps Ferry Elementary School in Biloxi.
According to WLOX, Sharika Jolly has long been hoping to instill some self-esteem in her daughter, Makiyah-Jae, who has struggled with the way she looks.
"Before, she wanted her hair straightened and colored blond," said Jolly. "I'm like, 'No, baby. That's not you. This is who you are. You don't have to be like anyone else but yourself.' And I feel like she should be comfortable in her own skin."
As part of this lesson, Jolly bought Makiyah-Jae a T-shirt that proudly proclaims, "Black Girls Rock!" Black Girls Rock! is a nonprofit that empowers young black girls and women. Makiyah-Jae has worn the shirt to her school multiple times, but recently she came home from school in a different shirt. Jolly promptly called the principal to figure out why.
"When I asked him what was the reason for him taking the shirt off of her, he said, 'You're right. It's not in the policy. Nowhere in the policy does it state that the shirt is out of dress code,' " Jolly told the news station. "He said they made a judgment call; then I proceeded to ask, well, who are the judges judging my 8-year-old? And he said, 'Well, I'm the principal, so I made the call.' "
Jolly then took up her complaint with an administrator for the school district, and shortly afterward, the school called to apologize.
"It took two days, but [the principal] did apologize," said Jolly. "I accepted the apology, but my concern is how many other kids have been discriminated against at that school and their parents have not spoken up."
Biloxi Schools Superintendent Arthur McMillan acknowledged that the principal likely overthought the situation but later reconsidered his stance.
"We probably overreached in this situation, but we make many decisions every day. Sometimes with decisions we make even as parents, we go back and look and think, 'I wish I'd made that decision different.' I think that's the situation here," said McMillan. "If he could make that decision again, he'd probably say, 'Hey, you know, that's not a big deal,' but you're always guarding against how do we not offend anybody."
Makiyah-Jae is now able to wear her shirt whenever she likes, and a family friend has promised her a new Black Girls Rock! shirt in the near future.
Read more at WLOX.