Black students are still getting in trouble for wearing Black hairstyles.
The latest example of this negatively-received approach comes from Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden, Massachusetts. The Boston Globe reports that parents have come out to pushback against the school’s attempt to punish students for wearing box braids.
“They marched black and biracial children down the hall [to inspect their hair,]” said Colleen Cook, mother of two girls who faced suspension after receiving multiple detentions.
To explain the string of punishments, the school released the following statement:
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… 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.
The school claims that it’s trying to make all students appear as equal because not everyone can afford the extensions often necessary to wear them. Parents feel this isn’t the best approach, though. Cook feels that the school’s rules against hair coloring and nail polish affect students across the board. But rules against hair extensions have a disproportionate effect on Black students, which make up 17 percent of the school.
Cook even reached out to the ACLU, the NAACP and the Massachusetts Anti-Defamation League to see if they’d help mediate the dispute. While the ADL had a meeting scheduled with school officials, but the school refused to take the meeting.
Meanwhile, Colleen and her and the girls’ father, Aaron, have instructed the girls to skip the detentions they’ve been given because they no longer serve a purpose.
“We felt that having them attend additional detention didn’t serve impacting change with the school anymore,” father Aaron Cook said to WBZ.
“We felt that the issue now needs to be dealt with between the parents and the school, and continuing to pile on additional punitive detentions really didn’t help matters.”