A school in Australia has done a complete 180 after asking twins girls of South Sudanese descent to remove their braids.
The story first broke last week when 16-year-old Grace and Tahbisa were pulled from their class at Bentleigh Secondary school in Melbourne and asked to remove their braids because they “did not represent the school.”
The heartbroken and embarrassed girls, who have worn their hair in braids since they were babies, said the request felt like an attack on their African culture.
“We were told that our hair doesn’t represent the school,” Grace told the Age.
“It’s not a problem and it doesn’t affect our education. They are asking us to look like everyone else.”
The girls argued that having their hair braided made it healthier and easier to manage and was part of their identity.
“It’s a protective style. It looks good and it keeps our hair growing,” Grace continued. “Your hair is your crown, it is about embracing yourself, accepting yourself. It is part of our identity.”
The school’s principal originally said the girls had to remove their braids to comply with the school’s “strict uniform policy” that “applies equally to all students.”
However, the school did an about face after girls’ story took off on social media.
“We are a welcoming school and I am absolutely comfortable with students expressing their cultural heritage,” principal Helene Hiotis said in a statement, issued through the education department.
“The family has been offered a school uniform exemption. We will work with them on this so the girls can wear their new braided hairstyle to school. Our uniform policy is something the school has worked very hard on. Exemptions to the uniform policy are always available where appropriate in situations like this one.”
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission warned that some school uniform policies failed to respect students’ diversity.
It isn’t the first time a school has had an issue with braided hair.
Chenise Benson, 13, was sent home from classes at the George Pindar School on Oct. 20 for allegedly breaking the dress code with her new extensions: bright white, waist-length braids (incorrectly referred to as “dreadlocks” by U.K. media). She got the Beyoncé-inspired box braids for her birthday over a recent school break, according to her father, Darren Benson, who tells SWNS that he paid $170 for the braids, which “will stay in her hair for a year so it won’t be coming out.”
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