Trustees of Mass. Charter School Unanimously Vote to Suspend Controversial Hair Policy Surrounding Students Wearing Braids

Mya and Deanna Cook (CBS Boston screenshot)
Mya and Deanna Cook (CBS Boston screenshot)

The board of trustees of a Malden, Mass., charter school has unanimously voted to suspend its controversial dress code policy that caused students to be disciplined for wearing braids in their hair.

According to the Boston Globe, the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School tossed out the section of the school’s dress code that prohibited hair extensions for the rest of the academic year after privately meeting Sunday to discuss a letter from state Attorney General Maura Healy, who called the practice discriminatory and warned the school to immediately stop enforcing its hair and makeup policy.

Healy’s office got involved Friday, sending the letter to the school that told school officials that the policy violated state and federal law, CBS Boston notes.


In the letter, the office said that Mystic Valley’s hair and makeup policy “includes a number of prohibitions that are either unreasonably subjective or appear to effectively single out students of color.”

“There appears to be substantial evidence that the Hair/Makeup policy is—at best—inconsistently applied,” the attorney general’s office added.

The letter then demanded that twin sisters Deanna and Mya Cook be allowed to participate in all school events.

The 15-year-old twins, who had become the face of the protest against the policy, had been routinely punished, banned from the track team and other school clubs, and banned from prom because of their braided hairstyles.


CBS Boston notes that Mya had already served over 15 hours of detention at the school because of her hair.


On Sunday after the meeting, which lasted more than two hours, the school came back with a favorable decision.

“The school will continue to work with the attorney general’s office to ensure that the uniform policy reflects our longstanding commitment to the rights of all of our students,” Mystic Valley’s interim director, Alexander Dan, said, reading from a prepared statement, the Globe notes. “Students who are either currently serving consequences, or accruing them, may immediately resume all before- and after-school activities.”


Those who have opposed the policy protested outside the school before the vote and later supported the suspension of the policy, adding that the suspension should be made permanent, the Globe reports.

Mystic Valley has been under scrutiny by outraged parents after an apparent sudden crackdown by the school in April when it began punishing students for wearing hair extensions—a rule that parents said disproportionately affected black and biracial children. The school asserted that the rule was meant to diminish material things that could highlight the economic differences among students because of cost.


The dress code also banned hair “more than 2 inches in thickness or height,” which Healey’s office said was an apparent reference to Afros and fades, which are, again, more likely to be worn by black students.


“We are viewing this as a step in the right direction,” Aaron Cook, the father of the twins, told the Globe. He said it is “beneficial” that the school is suspending the policy for the remainder of the school year, but he added, “It doesn’t yet sound like they’ve decided to change that policy.”

Cook also pointed out that the school’s statement did not address the punishments that had already been served and remained on students’ records.


“All of that needs to be wiped clean like it never occurred in order for us to be satisfied,” he added.


Read more at the Boston Globe and CBS Boston.

News Editor at The Root, animation nerd, soca junkie, yogi

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Raineyb1013, Misfit Black Girl Island Denizen

I was under the impression that the state ordered the school to get rid of this policy. Why are they acting like it’s something they’re merely doing for the rest of this year (which is what all of 4 weeks tops?)