Two Massachusetts students have been banned from attending their charter school’s prom and have been kicked off their school’s sports teams.
They wore hair extensions.
Deanna and Mya Cook haven been accumulating detentions for violating the school’s dress code, which says hair extensions can be distracting for other students and affect learning.
The students say it singles out African Americans.
Their mother, Colleen Cook, told WBUR she is not going to allow her daughters to serve their detentions.
“Hair doesn’t have anything to do with academia,” Cook told WBUR. “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.”
“We got extensions in [our hair] because we wanted to get them braided and that’s what black, African-American people do,” Deanna told the station’s talk show yesterday. “And when we showed up to school the first day we went, it was fine, no one said anything. The second day, [a teacher and the nurse] told us that we had to take them out.”
Eventually, African American students were being called to the office and asked if their hair was real, she says.
Kim Janey, the senior project director of the Massachusetts Advocates for Children, says the real “distraction” is the attention the school is paying to students’ hair.
“That is taking time away from learning and it is discriminatory. The bottom line, it’s discriminatory. I hope that they will change this policy, but even if they do, I’m deeply concerned that you still have a team of educators who believe that the only way black children can learn is if somehow they be something other than who they are …
“I just think that we should be focusing on what is in someone’s head and not what’s on top of their head. … Even if they change the policy, there’s language in that policy that says if your hair grows 2 inches in height off your head, well whose hair does that? Black people, people of color, our hair tends to do that.”