Today, the parents of Black and Brown children are fighting for their offspring’s right to wear their hair as they please, whether natural or braided. Being sent messages that the hairstyle is unacceptable or “loud, ghetto, or rachet” are some of today’s harmful stereotypes.
For non-White Americans, school dress codes are a battleground in the fight against discrimination. The U.S. has a long and complicated history with hair policing—the act of controlling how a person can grow and style their hair—that has deep roots in discriminatory attitudes towards Black and Afro-textured hair.
Child Asked To Cut His Hair
When seven-year-old Edward Chavis was asked to cut off his long hair by school authorities, his mother felt it was an insult to the boy’s Native American heritage. In response, Mia Chavis lodged a complaint with the board of education at the Classical Charter Schools of America in Whiteville, North Carolina.
According to the boy’s mother, Edward was allowed to wear his long hair in a braid or bun the previous year. The school only decided to enforce the grooming policies mid-way through first grade.
Embracing Their Heritage
The Chavis family belongs to the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. Edward’s grandmother, Tami Jump, told local journalists that hair is an important part of their culture: “We normally braid our children’s hair when it grows longer because we believe that the braid shows strength, it shows character.”
Not The First Case
Edward Chavis was not the only student subjected to hair policing by the Classical Charter Schools of America, a system that operates four schools in North Carolina. Logan Lomboy, a Native American student at their Leland location, was also asked by school administrators to cut his long hair after returning from spring break.
The first-grader’s mother, Ashley Lomboy, decided to push back against the request—she alleged that the school’s policy discriminated against her son and her family, who are members of the Waccamaw Siouan Tribe.
“Logan’s hair is an extension of who he is,” said Lomboy in a statement made by the American Civil Liberties Union. “Without his hair, he will lose part of himself and a critical aspect of his heritage. Native Americans have been wearing their hair long since time immemorial.”
To add insult to injury, Lomboy pointed out that the Classical Charter Schools of Leland occupy land that historically belongs to the Waccamaw Siouan Tribe. “The school’s dismissal of Logan’s identity and our tribal customs is needless, unfair, and deeply offensive to who we are and who our Tribe has always been.”
Extreme And Radical Haircuts Are Not Allowed
Initially, the Classical Charter Schools of America doubled-down on their stance and defended their policies. Boy’s hair needed to be “neatly trimmed and off the collar, above the eyebrows, not below the top of the ears or eyebrows, and not an excessive height.”
“Distracting, extreme, radical, or faddish haircuts, hairstyles, and colors are not allowed. No mustaches or beards. Boys must be clean shaven,” established the school’s grooming standards.
A statement by Baker A. Mitchell, president and CEO of the educational management company that runs the Classical Charter Schools of America, criticized the ACLU’s involvement in the dispute: “The ACLU seems more interested in creating controversy than resolving it.”
Requiring Girls to Wear Skirts
This incident is the Classical Charter Schools of America’s second brush with controversy over school policies. In 2022, a federal appeals court ruled that the school’s dress code—which required girls to only wear skirts or skorts—was unlawful by federal standards. The school (then known as the Charter Day School) has asked the Supreme Court to “review and reverse” the decision.
Recent Changes To Grooming Policy
Faced with heavy backlash from parents and the ACLU, the Board of Trustees for Classical Charter Schools of America unanimously resolved to change the school’s grooming policy. The new standards now read: “Hair must be clean and off the collar, above the eyebrows, not below the top of the ears or eyebrows, and not an excessive height.” (before the policy said neatly trimmed).
Trustee Chad Adams defended the minor adjustment in wording: “It addresses the issue that we’ve been concerned about, that the parents have expressed concerns about, and I think it allows us to move forward and do what we’re primarily here to do, which is educate kids.”
Hoping For More Inclusivity
For Ashley Lomboy and her son, the measure is both too little and too late. “I don’t believe that the changes that they made are going to really be inclusive of Indigenous kids,” Lombey told local news. “I think it was a step of acknowledging that there are some changes that need to be made but did not go far enough to make us feel welcomed at the school.”
Nineteen states have passed laws prohibiting discrimination based on hairstyles and hair textures, legal measures modeled after California’s 2019 CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act. A similar CROWN Act passed a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2022 but failed to make it through the Senate last December.
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This article was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching. Source.
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