It’s hard to believe that in this day and age, students are still given differential treatment based on their natural hair texture. Many schools have banned hairstyles deemed “unnatural” or “distracting” to other students, which often times unfortunately means the natural hair texture of black women.
These standards are racist because they often do not scrutinize the hairstyles of white students, including hair extensions or dyed hair, and they send an unhealthy message to black students that their natural hair is not “normal.”
School administrators often cite the need for these discriminatory standards because they believe that natural black hair is not “tidy” or “neat-looking,” and therefore students of color are required to wear their hair straight or relaxed, which can cost a lot of time and money!
If you still aren’t convinced that these hair standards are a product of discrimination, here are 10 examples of times female students of color were singled out for their hairstyles in totally unfair ways.
5. This Student Couldn't Attend Her Private School Because Of Her Afro
When eleventh-grader Jenesis Jones began wearing her hair natural to school every day, her teacher asked her in front of the class how long she would be “rocking that hairstyle.”
Two days later, she was called into the assistant principal's office and told that her hair was against school rules. School authorities told Jenesis and her mom that she would not be allowed to come back the next semester if she didn’t change her hairstyle.
6. Unable To Take An Exam Because Of Her Natural Hair
An eight-year-old girl in Seattle was told to leave her advanced class, where she was the only student of color, because her white teacher “didn’t like the smell of her hair.” She was then put in a classroom with more black students.
The hair-product culprit? Olive oil hair lotion.
8. These Australian Twins Were Told That Their Hair ‘Doesn’t Represent The School’
Grace and Tahbisa, who were born in South Sudan, were recently chastised by their school authorities for wearing their hair in braids. They were told that their hair doesn’t “represent the school,” even though they’ve been wearing it that way since they were very young.
“It’s not a problem and it doesn’t affect our education,” says Grace. “They are asking us to look like everyone else.”
Sixteen-year-old Tayjha Deleveaux started the Twitter movement #SupportThePuff after she and several of her classmates at C.R. Walker Senior High School were threatened with suspension because of their natural hairstyles.
Tayjah said in an interview: “From this whole experience I would love to talk to other girls about natural beauty … I want to show them that their hair is beautiful, you don’t have to be permed to be beautiful.”
10. Straighten Hair Or Be Barred From Taking Exams
Students at an all-girls school in South Africa were allegedly told that they must straighten their hair or be banned from taking their exams. This sparked another Twitter movement, #StopRacismAtPretoriaGirlsHigh, as students were understandably outraged.
11. This Florida Twelve-Year-Old Was Threatened With Expulsion Over Her Natural Hair
Vanessa VanDyke, a student at a private Christian school in Orlando, Florida, was told that if she didn’t cut and shape her hair to fit the school’s standards within one week that she would be expelled.
Fortunately, the school administrators eventually changed their minds, saying that Vanessa would not have to leave the school that she had been attending since the third grade.
12. This Student Was Told By Her Teacher That Her Hair 'Smelled Bad'
Amia Norris’ mom Tionna was shocked when her daughter brought home a note written by her teacher one day asking her to stop using so much coconut oil on her hair because the other students in the class were complaining that her hair “stinks.”
To that, Tionna replied, “coconut oil has no stinky smell.” Word.
13. This Seven-Year-Old Girl Was Sent Home In Tears For Wearing Dreadlocks
Oklahoma student Tiana Parker was forced to switch schools after her school told her she couldn’t come back if she kept wearing dreadlocks in her hair, as the school bans any hairstyle it deems “faddish,” including dreadlocks, afros or mohawks.”
14. These Twins Were Banned From Going To Prom Because Of Their Braids
Mya and Deanna Scott are twins who attend a charter school in Boston. They were recently punished by school officials for wearing their hair in braids with extensions on the basis of it being “distracting.” When they refused to comply, they were banned from various school activities, including prom and school sports, and were given numerous detentions.
This type of unfair treatment doesn’t just happen in schools...employers are still legally allowed to discriminate based on how job applicants style their hair, including in dreadlocks.
The bottom line here is that no one should be discriminated against because of how they look, so instead of focusing on students’ hairstyles, let’s embrace the differences and focus on more important things, like how we can improve their education!