Friday, June 30, 2017

Hair discrimination

It felt like a blast from the past, a furor over school dress codes. In this case, though, it wasn't a policy across the board against girls wearing pants in school as it was in my day. This dress code smacked of racial discrimination.

I happened to be visiting in Boston, Massachusetts mid-May when Malden charter school in the Mystic Valley area came under fire for discrimination against hair braid extensions, a relatively recent fashion trend. Here are a couple of examples of hair braid extensions from http://lightinthebox.com.


According to a May 21 article in the Boston Globe, braid extensions were determined by school officials to be "unnatural" and "drastic" and "distracting." Students wearing braid extensions at school faced detention and possible suspension.

Students and parents cried foul. Why were braid extensions distracting on black and biracial students, while neon-bright dyed hair on white girls went unnoticed? There was also a hair-no-thicker-or-higher-than-two-inch rule. Wha - a - ? That policy also seemed to point directly at students with hair that could be styled as afros.

Under a flurry of protests and media exposure, within a week, the school lifted the braid extension moratorium. Oh yes, and after the Attorney General Maura Healey sent a letter to the school saying the policy was unlawful. In response, the trustees suspended the policy for the remainder of the year, but did not change or cancel it altogether. Sheesh. Get a clue.