…What Would You Do?

By Dr. Phoenyx Austin

Yesterday I came across an article link on my Facebook News Feed that left me thoroughly disturbed and, quite frankly, totally ticked off. It was an article about a black Toledo high school student that was refused school registration this past Monday because of her sisterlocks. The student is a senior who has attend the same school since her freshman year. Click here to read more about this story.

According to the article, school officials informed the student that her sisterlocks did not meet the “new” standards for hairstyles which was “put in place sometime this year.” The new policy states:

Dreadlocks or “twisty” hairstyles are not acceptable. Hair carvings are not permitted. Hair color is to be of one of the original colors. No hairstyle is to call attention to itself. Spikes and Mohawks are strictly forbidden. No exaggerated hairstyles. The AP/Dean will make the final ruling on hairstyles and colors.

Interestingly enough, the school also boasts this philosophy:

Central Catholic High School exists to extend the ministry of Jesus Christ who dwells among us to serve and not to be served, to forgive and not to sit in judgment, to give witness to the truth of the Father’s love through the power of the Spirit….

We respect the dignity of each person and are richer because of the diversity of cultural heritage and religious expression.

Now after reading these two clauses, I found myself asking this question: How can a school claim to be “richer because of the diversity of cultural heritage and religious expression,” but then simultaneously attempt to stifle cultural expression?

It should also be noted that when a concerned resident contacted the school secretary to gain clarification about permitted hairstyles, he/she was informed that locks were unacceptable, but braids and extensions were acceptable.

And when several parents and residents contacted the school’s principal, Mr. Michael J.

Kaucher, he refused to meet with anyone regarding the matter- ultimately stating that “they are a private school and can make their own rules.” End of discussion.

And unfortunately, he’s right.

At the end of the a day, because this is a private institution, school officials do have the final say on hairstyles and dress codes- no matter how hypocritical or illogical.

So with that being stated, let me go on record with saying this: If this were my child- and she did not want to cut her sisterlocks- I would have no problem telling school officials to take a long walk off a short cliff. And after that, I would promptly register her at another school.

I realize that parents want their children to receive a “quality” education. So I can see how some parents would feel compelled to comply under these circumstances. But I would not- nor would I advise my child to feel pressured to cut off her hair based on a school guideline that seems blatantly arbitrary and even discriminatory.

Furthermore, I would feel compelled to ask this question (while also advising my child to ask the same): How “quality” could this school’s education really be if there is an obvious lack of cultural competency, cultural sensitivity, or willingness to engage in productive dialogue regarding such subjects?

Quite frankly, it’s my opinion that this school’s actions, as well as the principal’s inflexibility, speaks volumes about their “quality” of education. But that’s just my 2 cents- and we all must pick our battles.

I’ve been in similar situations and feel for this child and her parents. They are now put in the precarious position of choosing between her hair and her education. And it’s a very unfortunate situation that could have been resolved (and avoided) if this institution and principal were genuinely interested in aligning their school practices with their philosophy.

What do you think about this situation? Have you ever experienced something similar? If you were this student, would you cut off your sisterlocks? If you were her parent, would you advise her to cut off her hair to attend this private school? Sound off!

If you’d like to send a comment/question to Dr. Phoenyx Austin, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter. Dr. Phoenyx Austin is a writer, media personality, and physician who shares her thoughts on natural hair and wellbeing.