The parents of a Tulsa girl have pulled her from school because the administration wouldn't let her keep her hairstyle. Speaking with KOKI on Tuesday, Tiana Parker, 7, said tearfully, "They didn't like my dreads."
According to the parent-student handbook of the Deborah Brown Community School, which Tiana attended until Friday, "Hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros and other faddish styles are unacceptable. For safety reasons, girls' weaved hair should be no longer than shoulder length. Boy's hair is to be short and neatly trimmed." The school's website also states, "Uniforms are required as a part of the strict dress code we strongly enforce."
Tiana's father, Terrance Parker, said that school administrators told him that his daughter didn't look presentable. "She's always presentable. I take pride in my kids looking nice," said Parker, who works as a barber. He also said that last year, she wore the same hairstyle to school without consequences. A school representative told Yahoo Shine via email, "We have photo documentation in our yearbook that her hair was not in dreadlocks during the 2012-2013 school year."
The representative added, "The parent of the student in question elected to choose a forbidden hairstyle which is detailed in the school policy. The parent was asked to change the hairstyle, however on Friday, August 30th, the parent choose to dis-enroll her child from our program." Tiana is now attending another school where her hairstyle is ok.
More on Shine: Woman With Longest Dreadlocks: 'I Would Never Cut My Hair'
Despite the school's stated policy, the incident is creating a backlash and some accusations of racism on its official Facebook page. Mixed among fundraiser invites, recommended kid's books, and first day photos are barb such as, "Racism is to learning what sugar is to a gas tank," and "I suggest you read a few books about Black hair and it's uniqueness.…To degrade and exclude the little girl for a hairstyle is ludicrous, immature and asinine and unacceptable." The school serves about 200 K-5th grade students, 99 percent of whom are African American.
Over the last year, there have been a number of other reported incidents of students and parents clashing with school administrators over kids' hairdos. In April, a five year old from Springfield Ohio was suspended from kindergarten when he showed up with a short Mohawk. A couple of months earlier, a 15-year-old honors student was told her dyed auburn locks were too edgy for her Utah middle school. In June, another charter school was the target of an intense backlash after it sent out a letter detailing this fall's dress code that included a ban on "afro puffs and small twisted braids." The dean of students quickly apologized and said the rule was not directed at girls' hair but aimed at male students who were expected to be "well groomed."
Some critics are saying the underlying issue in the Deborah Brown Community School case is that singling out dreadlocks and Afros as "faddish" is problematic at its core. "Naturally textured hair is not a fad, if this is important I wouldn't want my child attending this institution. You're teaching every student that black girls must change their natural physical appearance to be accepted and to achieve," wrote one detractor on Facebook.
However, the school argues that it enforces its dress code, including rules about hair, in order to "encourage respect and seriousness of school." And they mean business. Even parents are asked to adhere to certain standards or they aren't permitted into the school or to accompany field trips. "Female parents or guardians should refrain from dress styles that do not require the use of a brassiere (go braless)," says the parent-student handbook, and "Of course, we cannot overemphasize the need for male parents or custodians to refrain from wearing trousers that sag."
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