ACLU files complaint over Malden school's policy on braids

Elias Hubbard
May 19, 2017

Yep, you read that right - braids.

One school's troubling and discriminatory hair policy is catching heat across the Internet.

However, a spokesperson for the school, Alexander Dan, said the hair code is only meant to minimize manifestations of inequality among students.

The complaint says that in addition to receiving numerous detentions, the Cook sisters have been banned from the school prom and kept from participating in after-school sports.

The handbook states that "students may not wear drastic or unnatural hair colors or styles such as shaved lines or shaved sides or have a hairstyle that could be distracting to other students (extra-long hair or hair more than 2 inch in thickness or height is not allowed). Their hair is lovely, there's no correcting that needs to be done", the girls' mom Colleen Cook told Newsweek. Colleen Cook argued that the policy targets only black students.

The girls' parents have since filed a complaint with the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League.

The students say it singles out African Americans. I immediately texted my mom and said, this is not fair.

"All the little black children were marched down for a hair inspection, whether they had braids or not, and asked, 'Are those extensions, are your braids real or not?'" Colleen Cook said.

So now, the goal is to change the policy and hold the school accountable, he said.

The school contends that the ban on hair extensions was meant to "foster a culture that emphasizes education, rather than style, fashion or materialism".

The school does ban hair extensions, which tend to be "very expensive", a statement last week on behalf of Mystic Valley Interim Director Alex Dan said.

Anti-discrimination groups aren't buying the school's rationale, however. "As a matter of fact, if you're confident in your body and in yourself, and if your hair makes you feel good, you're going to do better".

The Boston Globe (http://bit.ly/2qdW8hL) reports the association said the policy and enforcement actions taken by Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden "run counter to everything we — as parents, educators, association board members — stand for and teach in our schools".

Cregor went on to suggest that the school's hiring policies may also be discriminatory, since only one of the school's 156 teachers is black. State education data also shows that black students at the school were more than twice as likely a year ago to be suspended for any infraction compared with white students.

The girls' parents have tried to work out the issue with school officials but have been told their daughters will be punished if they continue to wear their hair in braids, according to the complaint. "If you endeavor to equitably serve students of color, you may wish to spend more time in the neighborhoods they live in, where braids are not distractions; they are hair".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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