8 Times Schools Let Black Girls' Hair Interfere With Their Education

Kristen Curette Hines

Black girls are still being discriminated against for wearing their natural hair the way it grows from their heads.

Not only are they asked to change their hair to fit mainstream standards, but they often have their education threatened when they refuse to conform.

From having their class sessions interrupted, to being threatened with suspension and expulsion, school officials can't seem to stop obsessing over black girls' hair.

Here are a few times that this racist hair obsession got in the way of a kid's education.

1. A Boston charter school threatened detention and suspension for black girls wearing box braids.

Malden Charter School served up detention slips to two students for wearing box braids, reports the Boston Globe. The 15-year-old twins, Deanna and Mya Scot, were also pulled from their school sports teams and told they weren't allowed to go to prom.

This is the statement the school made about their decision, according to CBS Boston:

"The specific prohibition of hair extensions, which are expensive and could serve as a differentiating factor between students from dissimilar socioeconomic backgrounds, is consistent with our desire to create an educational environment, one that celebrates all that students have in common and minimizes material differences and distractions."

The school pointing toward the hairstyle being expensive would be halfway understandable if it were accurate. Sure, there are some braiding salons that charge between $100 and $200 for the look.

But since braiding hair is a historic style within our community, you can't really go too far without finding a black girl who can and will braid your hair in her living room or kitchen for a much lower price. And then there are the black girls who can braid their own damn hair. I would know; I've stood in my mirror for hours putting in hundreds of micro-braids just because I couldn't afford to go to a salon.

We should also point out the cost of the braiding hair itself. It sells for as little as $2 a pack.

2. A South African all-girls school put restrictions on students with natural hair.

According to The Washington Post, students at  the Pretoria High School for Girls were told to "fix" their hair if they were wearing it in its natural state. Cornrows, dreadlocks and loose braids also had diameter restrictions. The girls held a protest on campus grounds.

One 15-year-old student told the newspaper,

They go around posting signs about the ethos of equality for all the girls at the school, but that is not true. It feels like they don't want to accept the fact that we're African.

The natural hair rules were suspended pending an investigation following the protest and a petition signed by over 25,000 people, according to BBC.

3. A black girl in Port Elizabeth, South Africa was told she couldn't take her exams.

Lawson Brown High School told black girls with natural hair that they needed to "tie" their afros up to make them "more beautiful," according South African news outlet, Times Live.

The school's principal inspected students' hair, and sent those he deemed inappropriate to the school's "hair committee."

Yes, you read that right. A school that is supposed to be dedicated to educating and uplifting students thought it necessary to form a whole damn hair committee.

Senior student, Unathi Gongxeka, was told she would not be able to take her exams until she followed the hair policy.

Principal Donovan Cairncross released the following statement, according to The Herald in South Africa:

"Children can be defiant and are always wanting to push the boundaries. If she comes to school with her hair in the same way we will have to see what the code of conduct states. We are looking at every aspect of the school uniform, from hair to clothing to nails."

However, after continued pushback from students and parents, Cairncross said the school's dress code would be reworked.

4. A third-grader in Belton, Texas was pulled out of class for her "frohawk."

In 2013, a then 12-year-old Vanessa Vandyke, was being bullied about her puffy hair by classmates at Faith Christian Academy. According to Local 6 News, Instead of putting a stop to the bullies, the private school suggested to her mother, Sabrina Kent, that she straighten her hair or cut it.

Vandyke was given a week to do one of the two or she would be expelled.

What a lesson for a school to teach kids, huh? Change yourself to meet mainstream (read: white) standards or we'll punish you for being bullied by kicking you out of school.

After her story went viral, Vandyke was allowed to remain at her school, which then released a statement to clarify things, according to News One.

It read,

“We're not asking her to put products in her hair or cut her hair. We're asking her to style her hair within the guidelines according to the school handbook.”

Her mother maintained that she will not be changing her hair.

7. A Seattle school had a black girl removed from class because of a hair product she used.

Thurgood Marshall Elementary School thought it was OK to remove a black student from class because of her teacher said the hair product she used made her "sick," as reported by The Seattle Times.

She was initially kept in the hallway and then moved to another classroom.

The school made these moves without calling her parents and refused to give an adequate explanation after they asked for answers repeatedly. She was ultimately kept out of her class for two weeks.

School district rep, Teresa Wippel, released this statement to the Seattle Times, shortly after the incident in 2010:

We're certainly concerned about the incident and are looking into it. Because it's been elevated to a legal issue, we can't really talk about it. Our goal is to make sure the student returns to school. The parents have, so far, not wanted to put her back in school. They want to be sure everything is resolved to their satisfaction.

8. Natural girls in the Bahamas were told their hair is "untidy."

Tayjha Deleveaux was sitting in a C R Walker Senior High School classroom when a group of school officials pulled her to the side. One of them told her that her hair was "untidy" and didn't look like a "schoolgirl" hairstyle, reported Teen Vogue.

She and other students with natural hair were told to they would either have to braid their hair or put it in a pony tail. If not, they'd be suspended.

Deleveaux talked about how she felt in an interview on the Miniskirts & Microphones blog.

She said,

I was humiliated because the whole class heard her tell me that I looked untidy and unprofessional. I cried that day. My friend had to take me to the bathroom to wash my face because I was crying so much and was so angry. I was embarrassed, I was humiliated and I didn't know how to feel about myself anymore after she said that. But deep down I didn't let it get to me. She made me feel ugly, she made me feel less than beautiful because of natural my hair. She wanted to embarrass me and make everyone feel like I was ugly, like my natural hair was ugly.

Her story started the online movement, #SupportThePuff, which is purposed to stand up for all black girls who are discriminated against for wearing their natural hair.

Black women used Twitter to share their natural hairstyles using the hashtag.

Though the school did not release a statement addressing the rules, the country's Ministry of Education assured the public that they took no part in the decision to police natural hair.

The minister wrote on a Facebook post, as reported by Cosmopolitan,

We are fully cognisant of the sensitivity of this matter and are confident that after review with the school administrator, the school board and the individuals involved, the matter will be amicably resolved.

So when will this stop?

Racism in schools is real and it's getting in the way of education. It's beyond time to let black girls learn in peace.