Recently (June 14), the Horizon Science Academy of Lorain, Ohio sent a letter home to parents about their dress code. Part of the letter read in part:
Afro-puffs and small twisted braids, with our (sic) without rubberbands, are NOT permitted.
Now, what they mean by "small twisted braids" are called box braids, which are a protective style that black girls have worn for generations.
I will also note that as a teacher in urban schools, box braids are also popular with boys as well.
Box braids on a little girl
"Afro-puffs" are essentially ponytails for African-American girls. When pulled back, the hair puffs out instead of staying down.
The dress code rules ban piercings and Mohawks, but not other kinds of ponytails or braids.
Which seems to be a sadly wrong standard operation procedure. It is often the case for African-Americans who choose to wear their hair naturally--that is, they choose not to put straighteners and other chemicals in their hair. They are often singled out for restrictions because the hair is seen as too "different" or too "radical", especially in academic or professional settings.
Hmm. I'm thinking this was not a good move. Not only from the obvious, but because I know from experience when you get a parent mad, the school never hears the end of it.
Turns out a lot of parents made a lot of noise.
In a letter dated today, the school writes:
In the dress code information packet, a statement was made about not allowing a
certain hairstyle. This information has offended many people and by no means did we have any intention of creating bias towards any of our students. We truly apologize for this mistake and want to thank everyone for their feedback about the information in our handbook.
Furthermore, we are taking the matter seriously and again apologize for any offense it may have caused. We are currently taking the necessary steps to correct the information and to prevent this from ever happening again. We will be sending the final updated version of our dress code as soon as possible.
In closing, HSA would like to thank everyone for their feedback with our school procedures and policies. We know that you share our vision and desire to make our school the best and the safest it can be for our staff, students, parents and community members. Please feel free to contact us at any time with suggestions or inquiries regarding our policies and procedures at Horizon Science Academy.
Again, we appreciate your feedback and for bringing this to our attention. If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to contact the school.
That didn't take long. My guess is that as this school is part of a national chain of charter type schools, those in the head office who write these kinds of things just weren't thinking. As is often the case. Because to them, the natural hair does not suggest a wish to keep chemicals out of one's hair. To these people, natural hair suggests all sorts of negative stereotypes.
And it's these little things that we see every day that are the real battle for racial equality. The big things Like Paula Deen (no pun intended) get lots of publicity, but smaller, more intimate things which are associated with unspoken beliefs often go unnoticed until people speak up and speak out, as was the case here.
Now, my hope is that the people who wrote this dress code can be educated in WHY it was offensive, and not only that it was because it singled out only the African-American children.
Because it's not enough to make them apologize and fix the error. There needs to be education so that the newly educated can spread their new-found knowledge and start to change perceptions.