Our natural hair has always been an issue for America but now it is targeting our babies at school. School is an institution built to educate, protect and keep our children safe. As an educator who works in Urban Education I am saddened by the recent events that go against these principals.
In August a video went viral of an 11 year old girl named Faith Fennidy seen crying while her brother Steven was asking the school’s administration what was wrong with her hair. Just like Steven I was wondering the same thing. Faith was attending a private school in New Orleans when she was sent to the principal’s office because her hairstyle was against the school’s policy. This policy does not allow children to wear extensions, wigs or any other hair pieces. If this policy is violated the school sends the child home and the family is asked to change their hairstyle to be in compliance. If the family refuses there may be further consequences such as suspensions.
Atlanta rapper T.I. took to social media to share his concerns along with other social media influencers. Of course the natural hair community chimed in. I read comments calling this “systematic discrimination”, “unacceptable” and even saying “this is why we need our own schools”. Working in Urban Ed I notice daily the positive impact of having staff of color working with our youth who proudly rock their natural tresses. Often times girls will come up to me asking about my hair or making comments saying “my hair looks like yours” with a big smile. That comment may seen minor to some but it largely impacts how they embrace their beauty in the future.
Unfortunately Faith is not the only child to experience this. Recently, there was another video that went viral at a private school in Florida. On his first day of school a 6 year old Clinton Stanley Jr. was sent home because of his dreadlocks. His father believes in following the rules but felt the school was discriminating against his child. The school stood by their policy which requires students to have short hair. Incidents like these remind us that our hair is still viewed as dreaded and not beautiful. As a result Christian and Faith will be attending different schools. Sadly, this is only two out of other stories just like this.
Although this is not something new, it is still very upsetting. A child’s hairstyle should not impede his or her’s learning. It makes me wonder if a white child was wearing extensions would they be treated the same? If our versatile hairstyles and extensions are so bad why are A list white celebrities wearing them proudly and receiving praise? The Fennidy family has taken legal action and as a result the hair policy has been rescinded. Is taking legal action the solution or is it having mandatory diversity trainings in Education? What scares me is the influence this will have on our children in the long run. It is our job to continue to empower and remind our children that their hair is beautiful. It is one of the many things that make us unique and we will continue to advocate for our natural hair beauties until all recognize this.