Sunday, October 2, 2022

Massachusetts Charter School Suspends Ban on Braided Hair Extensions

mystic valley protestors
Demonstrators chanted during meeting of Mystic Valley Regional Charter School’s board of trustees. (Photo: Josh Reynolds – Boston Globe)

*The board of trustees at a Massachusetts charter school has voted to suspend a policy that banned hair braid extensions.

Many members of the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School community have been speaking out against the policy, arguing that it discriminates against black and biracial students, according to The Boston Globe.

The board reached a decision after receiving a letter from state Attorney General Maura Healey ordering them to stop enforcing the policy.

“The school will continue to work with the attorney general’s office to ensure that the uniform policy reflects our longstanding commitment to the rights of all of our students,” Alexander Dan, interim director of the school said in a prepared statement, according to The Boston Globe.

“Students who are either currently serving consequences, or accruing them, may immediately resume all before- and after-school activities.”

The Boston Globe reports that the school’s dress code prohibits hair extensions, saying that they are “distracting.” The policy also punishes students with hair that is “more than two inches in thickness or height.” The letter from the Attorney General points out that this bans afros and fades.

Adding to the list of complaints by Mystic Valley parents and students, CBS News reports that white students were not punished for dying their hair. Semi-permanent hair color, which is often used by young people, lasts about four weeks and is also prohibited in the school’s dress code.

The policy came under fire by national organizations and media outlets when two twin girls, Deanna and Mya Scott, were banned from school activities because of their braided hair extensions. Beauty industry data shows that almost six and ten black consumers wear a wig, weave, and extensions, yet these girls were banned from sports, Latin Club, and other activities because of the way they chose to style their hair. CBS News reports that the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint against the school, calling out the discriminatory policy.

In accordance with the board’s decision, this part of the dress code will be removed until the end of the school year. Aaron Cook, Mya and Deanna’s father, said in a statement to The Boston Globe, that this is a step in the right direction, but emphasized that the reversal is not yet permanent.

“We are viewing this as a step in the right direction,” Cook said. “It doesn’t yet sound like they’ve decided to change that policy.”

While research shows that it takes about a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger, many critics of dress codes argue that these policies breed sexist and racist impressions of young students. Marc Kenen, executive director of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, said in a statement to The Boston Globe said that the board took the right step to discourage discrimination and now needs to go a step further.

“The board took the right action to suspend its discriminatory policy, and now needs to rescind it permanently.”





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