12-year-old Vanessa Van Dyke is facing possible expulsion from Faith Christian Academy in Orlando, Florida because of the way she wears her natural hair. As reported by WKMG Local 6, the African American student said she was given one week to cut and reshape her hair or get kicked out of the school because administrators felt it violated the dress code and was a “distraction.”
The school’s student handbook includes rules about how hair can be worn and reads: “Hair must be a natural color and must not be a distraction to include but not limited to: mohawks, shaved designs, rat tails, etc.” But Sabrina Kent, Vanessa’s mother, does not agree with the school’s definition of “distraction.” "A distraction to one person is not a distraction to another. You can have a kid come in with pimples on his face you know. Are you going to call that a distraction?"
Vanessa has been attending the private school since third grade and says she wore her natural hair in the same style the entire year. The honor student is proud of her hair and told WKMG, "First of all, it's puffy and I like it that way and I know people will tease me about it because it's not straight or anything. I don't fit in," adding, “It says that I'm unique.” The school administration only deemed Vanessa’s hair a violation of the dress code after the family brought concerns to them about bullying. "There have been people teasing her about her hair, and it seems to me that they're blaming her," Vanessa’s mother said. Faith Christian Academy has not answered any of the station’s questions and hasn’t released a statement.
The administration’s call of what is and is not distracting may be difficult to decipher when looking at the school’s promotional video and website. They show a teacher and students who could be deemed in violation of the dress code because of the hairstyles they are sporting. But one parent interviewed by WKMG thought that in the end it’s up to the school saying, “It’s a private school, they can, you know, it might be a distraction.”
For now the mother and daughter say that they have no plans to change the hairstyle. Sabrina said, "I'm going to fight for my daughter. If she wants her hair like that, she will keep her hair like that. There are people out there who may think that natural hair is not appropriate. She is beautiful the way she is."
Vanessa is also standing strong despite the sacrifices she may have to make saying, "I'm depressed about leaving my friends and people that I've known for a while. I would rather have that than the principals and administrators picking on me and saying that I should change my hair."
More info: WKMG
UPDATE November 26, 2013 4:26 PM PST : WKMG Local 6 reported that Vanessa Van Dyke will not face expulsion from Faith Christian Academy. School administrators issued the following statement to the station on Tuesday evening:
"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." - Faith Christian Academy Administrators
Local 6 said that the student will be discussing her hairstyle with her mother over the Thanksgiving holiday while school is in recess.