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Braids in the breeze

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Another day, another attack on our hair.

This time it’s a Massachusetts charter school under fire for sending Black and biracial students to detention for wearing braids. According to the Boston Globe, parents at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School are complaining that their children are being unfairly targeted, sent to detention and even denied entry to prom for their preferred hairstyle.

Colleen Cook, whose twin 15-year-old daughters, Deanna and Mya, told the newspaper that daughters refused to remove their braids and because of that they have served an hour of detention before school starts each day, and nearly an hour afterward. They have also been kicked out of after-school sports.

“They teach them at a very high academic level and I appreciate that, and that’s why they go to the school,” Cook said. “But unfortunately, they don’t have any sensitivity to diversity at all.”

Cook isn’t alone in her complaints: Two other mothers admit that their children have been racially profiled at school as well. In addition, parents claim that in recent weeks up to 20 African-American female students have been pulled out of class and asked if their hair was “real.”

One student Lauren Kayondo, 15, was even suspended, the Globe noted.

“It’s discrimination,” Annette Namuddu, Lauren’s mother, told the newspaper. “I see white kids with colored hair, and you are not supposed to color your hair, and they walk around like it’s nothing.”

“She added: My daughter is a good student. Never gets in trouble. Lauren was having difficulty in mathematics, but they should be helping her out instead of putting her in detention.”

According to U.S. News & World Report, more than 40 percent of students in the school are people of color, including 17 percent who are Black.

Not surprisingly the school defends their anti-blackness by stressing that their “rules are meant to promote education rather than style, fashion and materialism.”

“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,” Mystic Valley Regional Charter School issued in a statement to the Globe.

They added: “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.”

But parents aren’t buying the school’s explanation. They are clear: Not only are these problematic policies racist, but they also humiliate Black students.

In the meantime, Cook is not taking the issue lying down: She has contacted both the NAACP and the state’s Anti-Defamation League asking for help. 

This is 2017.  Our girls should not be harshly disciplined for the hairstyle we choose to wear.

This is a developing story and we will provide updates as they become available.

SOURCE: The Boston Globe


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