The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has filed a complaint against a charter school that has been disciplining and suspending black and biracial students because their braids violate the school’s dress policy.
The ACLU argued that the school’s policy is discriminatory. Two black students that are also twin sisters at the school were punished for wearing braids with hair extensions, which is a very popular hair style, and very central to black culture. According to CBS Boston, the twins Deanna and Mya Scott have been banned from running in track, the Latin Club, and can not attend any school events because of their braids.
On the other side of the coin, parents have spoken out saying that the white kids in violation of the school’s dress policy because of things like hair dye are not receiving any kind of disciplinary action. Mya Scott expressed to CBS Boston how it made her feel to be able to wear her braids;
“I was really excited to be celebrating my culture because I have white parents and it’s very important to participate in the culture,” Mya told CBS Boston.
Mya’s twin sister Deanna expressed to CBS that she thinks the policy is racist;
“What they’re saying is we can’t wear extensions, and the people who wear extensions are black people,” she explained. “They wear them as braids to protect their hair and they’re not allowing us to do that.”
The twin’s adoptive parents who are white are very upset with the school because of the way their children are being treated. Their mother Colleen Cooks expressed her frustration to CBS reporters and said;
I’m angry, I feel like my children are beautiful, they’re black, they should be proud of themselves,” Colleen said. “I’m very proud of them.”
The twins father Aaron Cooks feels that the policy is totally discriminatory towards blacks;
“The policy specifically discriminates against African-American children as it relates to hair extensions,” Aaron added. “You typically do not see Caucasian children with hair extensions. The fact that it’s in the handbook does not make it a non-discriminatory policy.”
The school is standing behind their policy at this current time and insisting that the policy isn’t racial and that it is in place to create an educational environment that is free from distraction, and social competition between students. The school has an idea that somehow hairstyles can take the focus away from the educational process, and in a sense hurt other children’s feelings they may come from a family that can’t afford to get hair extensions.
“The specific prohibition of hair extensions, which are expensive and could serve as a differentiating factor between students from dissimilar socioeconomic backgrounds, is consistent with our desire to create an educational environment, one that celebrates all that students have in common and minimizes material differences and distractions,” School Interim Director Alexander Dan said in a written statement.
So the school may be doubling down and hiding behind their policy for the time being, but the wheels are in motion, and this will come down to a matter of anti-discrimination and the school will soon have to face the claims made by the ACLU and come with more reasoning than “its policy.”
Source: CBS News