Black Students Punished For Wearing Box Braids To School

A Massachusetts school is facing backlash for allegedly targeting minority students.

It’s 2017, and black students are still getting in trouble for wearing black hairstyles.

According to the Boston Globe, several students at the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden, Massachusetts have faced detention and suspension for wearing box braids, which reportedly is against school policy.

Three parents have come forward to call out the school for the policy, which they believe unfairly targets black students. Colleen Cook, whose 15-year-old twin daughters Deanna and Mya are reportedly facing suspension after multiple detentions because of their hair, told the Globe that the school began a crackdown on box braids in April.

“They marched black and biracial children down the hall [to inspect their hair,]” she told the Globe on Friday.

Other students, including 15-year-old Lauren Kayondo, have reportedly been suspended for refusing to remove their box braids.

On May 11, school officials responded to complaints about the policy in a statement, which said:

“One important reason for our students’ success is that we purposefully promote equity by focusing on what unites our students and reducing visible gaps between those of different means... Our policies, including those governing student appearance and attire, foster a culture that emphasizes education rather than style, fashion, or materialism... Our policy on hair extensions, which tend to be very expensive, is consistent with, and a part of, the educational environment that we believe is so important to our students’ success.”

While the school maintains that the box braid ban is to insure equality amongst all students, the policy against hair extensions disproportionately affects black students, who reportedly make up 17 percent of the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School’s student body.

According to WBZ NewsRadio 1030, Colleen Cook reached out to the ACLU, the NAACP and the Massachusetts Anti-Defamation League to help address the issue. Officials from the ADL had plans to meet with school officials on Friday, but as of Monday, school officials have reportedly refused to speak with a representative from the ADL.

In the meantime, Deanna and Mya Cook have been instructed by their parents to no longer serve the detentions they’ve received as punishment.

“We felt that having them attend additional detention didn’t serve impacting change with the school anymore,” father Aaron Cook said to WBZ.

“We felt that the issue now needs to be dealt with between the parents and the school, and continuing to pile on additional punitive detentions really didn’t help matters.”

This, of course, isn’t the first time that black students have been targeted and punished for wearing traditionally black hairstyles. There have been numerous stories in recent years about students, particularly black girls, facing detention and suspension for wearing braids and afros to school.

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