7-Year-Old Girl Sent Home From School for Having Wrong Hairstyle. My Frizz and I Go Into Hiding

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January 27, 2014 by Katia

Yesterday we celebrated Family Literacy Day here in Canada. Literacy is about the love of learning. This post I wrote back in September for the late MamaPop is about those who stand in its way.

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Aaah, first week of school… Choose your favorite sappy cliché and insert here. I’m gonna go with – they grow so fast. *sigh-ish*

Last week my older son started attending Junior Kindergarten at the same school he’ll be going to in a couple of years. All week long I’d been asked the same standard parenty questions: How was your son’s first day at school? How did he like it? How did you feel? Welp. Wanna know how I really feel? After reading a couple of ‘return to school’ stories which circulated the interwebs last week, I feel like we, parents, should maybe consider updating the protocol of first-week-in-school-appropriate-questions to include: Did anyone crush your child’s dream yet? No? Well, how about their self esteem then?

Last week Fox23 News reported that a Tulsa, Oklahoma father, Terrance Parker, pulled his 7-year-old daughter, Tiana, a straight A student, out of Deborah Brown Community School, the charter school she was attending, due to an ongoing argument about her hairstyle failing to comply with the school’s dress code which states:

Hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, mohawks, and other faddish styles are unacceptable.”

Reasoning?

The school feels that could distract from the respectful and serious atmosphere it strives for – quotes Fox. When asked for her interpretation on what prompted the events, the 7-year-old was crying in front of the cameras. They didn’t like my dreads, she finally managed to reply. *full-on-for-reals-deep-sigh*

Now let’s get over the fact that this is Fox (23) News and talk about a couple of concerns. Firstly, according to this school (and probably a few others) HAIR is part of the DRESS code. Because hey, let’s ignore the fact that yours truly has been trying to undress her head for the last thirty something twenty three years but failed miserably because hair is NOT a clothing item, and pretend that it is! Because wouldn’t it be much easier then to claim that the way someone’s hair grows naturally, like oh I don’t know, say an afro for example, is actually a choice and your hair can, therefore, be easily taken off and removed per school’s wish? Kinda like someone’s sexuality, right? I bet the dress code covers unacceptable, distracting sexualities as well.

Secondly, OMG guys, did you know that the way someone’s hair behaves naturally could actually be deemed disrespectful? Like an afro. That’s disrespectful. What about my own frizz? Isn’t frizz like a synonym for ‘unacceptable’ in the hair world? OMGOMGOMG, I’m breaking a rule! I don’t want people at work to think that my hair is being disrespectful! *tries to undress her head once again, fails, turns to mirror* Shit, hair, we’re screwed. *turns to you* What if I pulled my hair up, so it’s out of my face? What if I pulled it into tidy little braids so I could see your face and you could see mine, would that be better? What if I added a pink bow to make it look even nicer?

Tiana.Fox

Oh shit, never mind.

As if that wasn’t enough I then stumbled upon this post titled Dear Teacher, Please Don’t Crush My Son’s Dreams and it’s essentially about the same. Educators, not hair, behaving badly. In this post a fellow blogger mom talks about how her son’s speech project on the subject ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ got graded an F for his choice of profession. Following the example of his successful mom, who is making a living blogging, the 9-year-old boy explained in detail how he planned to become a Youtuber. His hard work and sincerity in sharing his v-logging dream were dismissed because “Youtuber is not a real job, young man!”.

Our kids and us live in an era of TED Talks and TV shows like Glee, which encourage diversity and creativity. We share this era with so many of our kids’ caring, enlightened and dedicated educators, yet some seem to cling to an archaic perception which glories conformity and conformism as the educational system’s main value whether it means having the same hairstyle as “everyone”, regardless of the fact that there is no such thing as a monolithic “everyone” anymore, or having the same profession as “everyone”.

Last week I’ve sent my son to his future school for the first time. My usually extroverted firecracker 4-year-old wrapped himself around my leg and made it clear he wasn’t going to let go. As the school doors were opening to take in the steady stream of his excited and anxious peers, I urged him to follow his teacher, worried that they would lose sight of each other as he got distracted. I saw him turn to me with a question mark in his eyes, flustered, not himself, fighting off tears. And I wasn’t allowed to follow. For safety reasons. I had to abide by the rules. I had to assume that his safety – physical and emotional is in the hands of school now. I had to accept the rules and assume that the purpose of rules is to protect him and I did. I’m glad I didn’t read the stories about Tiana and the 9-year-old boy that day.

Image sourceThe Raw story 

***

It’s been almost five months since I originally published this post. I’m glad to report my son has a wonderful teacher. How about your children?

31 thoughts on “7-Year-Old Girl Sent Home From School for Having Wrong Hairstyle. My Frizz and I Go Into Hiding

  1. My son goes to a Christian school with strict dress code. No long hair for boys, no distracting earrings for girls among many others. Tolerable stuff though.

  2. I cannot even begin to wrap my mind around that hair business. Oh, yes, it’s the hair that is distracting and off in this situation! Grrrr.

    And the judgment call about what does and does not constitute real work? I am glad that child has an imagination more developed than does his teacher.

    My 4yo son’s teacher is lovely. We don’t agree on all things (who does?), but she creates a safe, supportive atmosphere and i am glad she’s my son’s teacher.

    • Katia says:

      I’m so grateful for my son’s teacher too. I don’t think that the examples described here are the norm, but still heartbreaking that children should be faced with self doubt so early on and through interaction with authority figures. Grrrr is right.

  3. Geez, kids should be able to do whatever they they want with their hair until they’re out of college and have to wear it to please “the man” who gives them a job. My hair was always long and I’d wear it long today, if I could. We’ve been really lucky that, other than Ace’s first grade teacher, who was an anti-social fuckwad, all of the kids have had great teachers so far. It really makes a huge difference in a child’s life and mental well being to have great teachers. Geez, sorry if I can’t say fuckwad here, Katia, but that woman was a real fuckwad.

  4. Karen says:

    I couldn’t send my kids to a school that doesn’t appreciate and cultivate diversity. They’re both in a great preschool right now but my son starts kindergarten in August. I really don’t want to find myself in a position of having to unteach what they learn in school. It’s hard to turn them loose in the world.

    • Katia says:

      Exactly. Having to unteach is SO hard and there is only so much we can control about our children’s exposure to content and views we don’t approve of, which is why I think you’re making a very smart decision.

  5. mickiwrites says:

    Good thing they didn’t see my hair this morning!

  6. Excuse me – she was sent home because of her hair? Oh boy. That family was blessed to learn early on that this is not the school for them. Not the school for any sane family if you ask me. My two had mostly wonderful teachers throughout their school years. There were a couple of gems like the chap in gr. 4 who insisted the students put colourful borders around their papers or he’d give them a poor grade and the gr 8 teacher who dumped all the essays into her green garbage bag “briefcase” but the majority of teachers were great.

    • Katia says:

      And what I think is most shameful about it is that it’s the natural growth of her hair which is being judged here. There was nothing “edgy” or “out there” about those little braids with the pink ribbon. I’d say it’s ridiculous, but I think it’s far worse.

  7. Jane says:

    That article is so sad, what is wrong with people today?!

  8. Man, I read stuff like this, and I think I should homeschool. But, alas, I don’t have it in me to do that. That poor girl….hopefully she found a school that is more accepting and she is better off!!

    • Katia says:

      I don’t have it in me either, but as one of the other readers, Kelly, said it’s good that the family found out what kind of a hypocritical and antiquated institution this was, however it is still heartbreaking and so wrong.

  9. It’s truly disappointing to hear things like this – as someone with super wavy/frizzy hair I know what it’s like to feel ashamed of your hair. It’s worse when your school, a place that is supposed to be a ‘safe haven’ for kids, promotes and fuels these awful feelings. I’m happy too my son is at a great school where none of this goes down and they are very diverse, representing various parts of the globe. It’s a great area. :) Glad you’re satisfied with your educational system as well, it is truly important. Have a great one Katia! -Iva

    • Katia says:

      My dear fellow people-call-my-hair-difficult friend. I am glad that this resonated with you. Not because I’m glad you struggle with feelings of shame over your hair, but because I felt so strongly about this and I’m really glad to know you understand. Thank you!

  10. Natalie DeYoung says:

    Oh, when I heard about this it pissed me off so much. As if you can control what your hair looks like! Growl. Smacks a bit like racism, too…

  11. T. Dawn says:

    My hair is such a nappy mess that the first time I had it straightened I didn’t wash it for at least three days. Huh…It’s funny how now being a Mom I actually don’t see that as THAT bad. But back then (2000-ish…that just sounds odd) I felt like Jesus parted the waters for me and my frizzy waves finally and as long as he didn’t get any of the water on my fabulously non-nappy, straight hair, I was awesome.

    On a more serious note…what a great job you did capturing the outrage over this disgusting occurrences. People forget how golden the old “do unto others…” lesson is. The racism is so blatant I can’t fathom how anyone could enforce those rules upon that little girl in that way. It’s her damn hair!

    By the way this… “they grow so fast. *sigh-ish*”…had me laughing out loud. (=

    • Katia says:

      I’m so glad I made you laugh and rage with me, Dawn, honestly, this was one of my favourite posts ever to write. I wrote it with a lump in my throat.

      • T. Dawn says:

        I get that. I’ve had that lump before and it usually looks and feels good/right on paper. It’s usually the ones that connects the most with people too. Not necessarily in a “most likes” kind of way but more personal. I almost don’t want to edit those pieces too much for that reason.

      • Katia says:

        Exactly! Wisest thing not to. (Also – check your email) :-)

  12. Aussa Lorens says:

    Surely someone will pick this up and sue them. That is absolutely horrifying, they may as well have specified acceptable skin tones.

  13. related site says:

    Wonderful blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News?

    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there!
    Many thanks

    • Katia says:

      Hi, sorry it took me a while to get back to you. Thanks for the compliment!

      I have been working with RedBook Magazine and they’re affiliated with Yahoo Shine. They asked me if I wanted to have the story featured on Yahoo Shine and I said “um, yes please?!”. :-)

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