…What Would You Do?
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!
I'm really curious as to what this school's administrator thinks Jesus' hair looked like. Lamb's wool sounds pretty 4c to me. Very capable of locking. But we don't like to talk about that…
I think there is one extremely important point that everyone is missing here. On the surface, this situation appears racist. But having been through the exact same situation at my children's school, which did involve the legal system, there are other issues to be considered. The school my children attended did not handle the issue well, as the child and both parents had locks and that should have caused the school officials to take a deeper look at the cultural aspects of this child's case instead of issuing an ultimatum to cut or be dismissed on day one. However, the big issue is that although culturally African-Americans know that locks have been around forever, no one can deny that locks have become increasingly popular with teenagers due to the fact that many popular celebrities, sports and music particularly, wear them. This puts the hairstyle in a whole different light as far as religious practice is concerned; and thus, it creates a cultural dilemma. As a Christian who is true to following the Word, one is not to become involved and entangled in following the "world" and involving themselves in "worldly" things. For a lot of teenagers, wearing locks is a fad and it is indeed considered "worldly." A young man in my neighborhood recently cut off his locks after years of wearing them; and they were gorgeous, as was he. But he said he did so because he was now a college graduate and he needed to be a professional, be a man, and get a good job, which is promptly did. So clearly, as a young person he was not making a statement about his "blackness" because if he was, he would have kept them. He clearly was following a trend he felt he grew out of. Worldly fads, trends, statements, whatever you want to call them, do not mix with the Church. Never has, never will. The original article clearly states that braids were allowed; and if this is true, then it's clear the school has no problem with the hair growing of the child's head. In some Christian schools they try their best to teach teenagers that everything that's going on in the world with teenagers doesn't have to affect them; and it's okay to be different and love God and try their best to be a good person, and especially don't fall into the fads and trends and emulate celebrities and live out the music that being played today. That's leading children down too many wrong paths and making them insensitive to the world around them and life in general. So really, with regard to religious matters, it's not always about color. You have to look a lot deeper sometimes. Unfortunately, a lot of celebrities (with all their negativity wrapped into all of this) are taking our historically cultural gifts and differences and turning them into fads and things to be looked down upon instead of the beautiful cultural differences they should be. That makes it very hard for other cultures to be able to discern whether these are truly cultural or trendy; and if you really think critically about this, it really makes it difficult for us as well. Especially since no one, not even the ones who mentioned going to Christian school, gave this particular dilemma any thought or mention. The world is in darkness. If your child is going to be a light in dark places, he/she must not "look" like the world. That has nothing to do with their beautiful natural hair at all. Totally unrelated. Be Blessed!
"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? "
I just read her sister locks are only three weeks old. Why not just take them out and wear a big a** afro? lol Or she could just wear a conservative wig. The school is hypocritical and racist, but she only has one year left. Why let them screw up her future for hair only 3 weeks old?
As a parent I would not continue to pay tuition for a school so blantanly racist! Why no restrictions for long straight hair? Then I would contact an attorney to see if I had any legal recourse. Then I would saturate the media as much as possible.
What they have done goes beyond mere "hairstyles" and they know it! People have been known to get great educations and great jobs without going to this particular racist school.
I would take my child and my business elsewhere. You can sugar coat it and pretty it up by calling it anything you like, but the fact of the matter is this is a racist stance that the school is taking. And any school that doesn't truly embrace diversity is a school my child will not attend. If this child takes her sisterlocs out, the problem will only just begin. Then it will be a battle every day to decide how to style her hair in a way that's acceptable and non-aggressive. Imagine what this will do to this girl's psyche and self-image. I don't care if this is the Ivy League of private schools….it is NOT worth the negative message sent and the possible long term adverse affect of making her conform.
I hate to say it, but this does seem to be racist. While I understand the school banning the more "extreme" hairstyles (Mohawk, spikes, green or purple hair) the ban on 'locs doesn't seem to serve any purpose, other than to deny a student the ability to wear her hair in a natural style.
I also find it interesting that the "acceptable" styles listed (extensions and braids) are the most mainstream and the ones that (and again I hate to say this) mimic soft flowing (read=Caucasian)hair.
Any school that refuses a student because their hair isnt a school my child should be in. I went to private school and they didn't allow shaved or color heads, but they never focuse kids with dreads or afro hair to change. the school has view that need work!
"Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and conform."
That just really hurt my heart.
The only points I'd like to make are
The institution is not nearly as important as the student. I know as a parent you want the best education for your child but you can learn anywhere. A Harvard grad with a C average is no better than a local college grad with an A or B. Your education is dependent on you, so feeling compelled to stay shouldn't be a factor.
But I understand how she would feel as a senior being uprooted in her last year or forced to compromise herself. All you natural ladies on here think about what went into your decision, eps those of you who have done it more than once. It takes a lot to get to this place so to just dismiss it as "no big deal" or "just hair" is a disservice to the journey she's had.
Not to mention Sisterlocs aint cheap, I don't know what you've hear, they're definitely an investment, and to only have had them in for 3 weeks, i wouldn't be gung-ho about taking them out.
As unfair as it is my opinion would be to leave, you're paying for the education, take your business elsewhere and fund a school that will accept you
This is a private school, but it's not *JUST* a private school, it's a Catholic school. As such it is bound by the teachings of the Catholic faith.
And that's the way to win this battle. Don't tell them how bad they are, just keep the emphasis on one point.
I expect better of a Catholic school.
As a Catholic I expect better of a Catholic school.
Central Catholic is in the middle of the city, it has a large Black student presence.
Focus on that, I expect better of a Catholic school.
This is very odd! The problem must be that the people don't know what well kept locks look like. Even as a black woman myself, it's only been recently that I've seen smooth neat well-kept locks and understood how traditionally professional they are capable of looking! The comment about hair being exaggerated is a tough one too… my hair is rather large, even though it's just below my shoulders, stretched, and if I just pulled it back it would be pretty attention getting by nature!
I assume curly-haired white students don't have to take any extra steps to make their hair "acceptable" and less "exaggerated."
It's too bad I don't live there anymore, (but not really; that city is a depressing pit) because I would have gladly attended that protest.
I'd find another school…after getting some press involved. They should be more worried about the education they are giving and not whether this girl has "Becky" hair or not. That really irks my nerve!
I find it crazy that you can have sisterlocks in the military (I have a friend that has been wearing them for over a year and she's in the navy), but this school won't allow a student to wear them. My question is if the hair policies are new (ie not been in place for the 3 years the student has been attending)who thought it was a good idea place locs under the same banner of unnatural colors and mohawks.
And if the girl was to remove her locs, would 2 strand twists be banned as well? an afro?
I understand rules are rules, however I think rules come into question when people of a particular racial or ethnic background seem to be the target.
I would also suggest that those who disagree with Mr.Kaucher could send him a wordy e-mail expressing your thoughts on the matter. It is firstname.lastname@example.org. Since he has a hard time speaking about the matter.
@Amanda: There are plenty of styles for natural hair that aren't damaging (buns, twist outs, braid outs and so on) that the child can wear. I'm not saying that we must damage our hair to be acceptable nor am I defining what is acceptable. The school is saying that particular hairstyle is not acceptable. Again, their, house their rules. The school didn't say that her natural hair was unacceptable, they just said that particular hairstyle was unacceptable. If the child wants to go to that private school then she has to find a natural hair style that is acceptable or change schools. I am a woman with natural hair in the military; therefore I must play by their rules and find a hairstyle that is acceptable while in uniform according to their definition. And I do so without damaging my hair. You speak about my money going to this school, well my own tax dollars are also going to military funding. If I don't like the military's rules regarding my hair then I get out. If the parents don't like the rules of the school (again private schools are an option) then they can move the child to a new school. That's all there is to it.
sad, just sad.
"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…."
If I were this young lady (and she made an excellent point about wearing natural hair versus for example, a permed style), I would work within the system to bring about a change. Kill them with kindness. Any chance I'd get, I'd educate them (essays, speeches, etc.) about natural hair (sisterlocks) while incorporating it into their philosophy.
As upsetting as it is, as unfair as it is, it seems like the only way to affect a change is from the inside. From the outside, they're not listening.
I wish you well.
I am black Catholic. I would venture neither the student or her family or Catholic. In my opinion, the family is fighting the wrong battle. It is a private school; and therefore they make the rules. Its your choice to follow the rules or leave. IT IS THAT SIMPLE. My father told me to pick your battles. As a private school, the administration has to option to ask your daughter to leave. There is no recourse should that happen, and a legal battle would consume your daughters' senior year. Is it worth it to make a point?
@Anon 4:24 But what is acceptable? Afro, relaxed, flat ironed. Do we have to damage our hair or harm our bodies just so that wp can find us acceptable? Braids, wigs, weaves can be just as damaging as a relaxer and can be just as harmful telling her hair natural hair is unacceptable. It's like saying bp are naturally ugly. Yes you should abide by their rules to a point. Like you are paying for a certain service, you are also paying. So that means that your money is going to this school.
This may sound cruel but this is just my opinion. If you're at a private school then you must abide by their rules. Although I don't consider sisterlocks to be in the same category as a purple, pink and green mohawk. I've seen high powered professional women with beautiful sisterlocks, but if you want to go to a private school then you have to follow the rules. It's like being in the military. There is a very strict dress code when it comes to uniforms and grooming. Women in the military and military reserves (natural hair or not)can't wear certain hairstyles while in uniform (men as well have to abide by certain grooming rules). Yet women with natural hair still find a way to serve their country and still style their hair in a way that abides by military rules. They're not saying that she can't have natural hair, they're saing that she can't have that particular hairstyle. Again this is a private school, so this school is optional (just like joining the military is optional at this point in time). I'm not saying that the school is right, but at the end of they day, their house their rules. If the student and the parents don't like the rules, then they can always give another school, or a public school, a shot. The parents and child have to ask themselves what's really important here.
I attended Private School as well (not catholic). We had a very strict dress code – uniforms. Only a certain color of shoes could be worn. Hairstyles out of the norm were unacceptable. I am not a fan of dread locks or sister locks (regardless of the gender) so my child wouldn't have them. I guess as a parent in this situation the question would be "what is more important her hair or her education?" I hear so many women say "my hair doesn't define me" if that's the case, then get your education. In the world that we live in today, you will need your education far more than your hair.
this is just sad all the way around, there is not an easy fix or solution. Why the backlash from school and some employers over our natural hair? I do not understand that. Wondering in their minds if they see natural hair as an act of defiance or being militant? IDK makes me sad forced to conform or leave the school = (
Well technically "sisterlocks" aren't "dreadlocks" – one could certainly argue this. I would.
I think , given the child's age, I would add her input and feelings about it into the equation before making a decision. She is a senior, not a fifth grader. She needs to feel that her opinions and thoughts matter.
If she feels strongly about wanting to stay there, I would tell her that I admire her courage and admonish her that sometimes having courage can be difficult. With that said, I would then assist her in getting media, social organizations and the student body involved in changing school policy.
If she didn't want to stay there, I would get details as to why and encourage her to realize that sometimes, life situations are difficult- there will be battles, but we have to choose our battles carefully. I would also encourage her to understand that some battles need to be fought, that one cannot/should not run when the heat is on. We must decide which ones we will fight or not fight and still be able to hold our heads up, have self-pride and feel like we have the courage to make the best decision. Got to still be able to look yourself in the eye and feel good.
I guess, regardless of the age of the child, my decision would be based on a number of factors which aren't easily disernible here. The personality and maturity level of the child, the level of support at the school and in her life in general, the quality of education at the school and if there is another scholl with comparable quality in the area, etc.
Best of luck to this young lady and her family.
Unbelievable, given that God gave us our natural hair in the first place, rejecting this student means you reject what God has made, which kinda goes against His minstry that they are trying so poorly to uphold. I wouldnt go to that school anyhow.
If the school is willing to pay for her hair to be done the way they want, sure, go ahead. Otherwise, it absolutely discriminatory.
@ Anonymous 10:40. I wondered the same thing, what does "one of the original colours" mean? I'm assuming they consider an "original" colour to be a colour that would naturally grow out of a human being's scalp (such as black, brown, blonde, red, etc) and not a colour like blue, pink, purple, green.
Most "private" institutions benefit from local and federal funds so their arrogance at what their institution is allowed to do is incredulous! I agree with Anonymous Aug 24 9:43am, the question needs to be asked if alterations are distracting, why is permed hair a preference?
I also went to private schools up until college and know that they've been allowed to wield political, social and financial power in their municipalities in ways that are truly unfair to paying parents, teachers and students. Yes you pick your battles, but this is one that can be picked. Who decided this policy and based on what? And since when is a school not accountable for the decisions it makes?
I'm curious to know whether or not this "private" institution uses any public funds. Many of them do in the form of grants.
While I am still outraged – I read she has only had the sister locs 3 weeks. I would let her decide if she wanted to comb them out or not. If not, we would find her another school.
Like @Lori said above, "what is the girl to do with her God Given hair"? I bet an afro would not be acceptable either so it would have to be flat iron or relaxer. Does the policy say anything about wearing cornrows? I think the school needs to do a bit of research, this policy seems culturally insensitive.
She could cut the hair of course and it will grow back but you have already ingrained the message that a part of her is socially unacceptable.
And then one wonders why so many black women are insecure with their hair? Why then would you be surprised when she uses relaxers and weaves all her life and never lets her real hair see the light of day?
Whether she keeps the locs or not, I hope someone makes sure this girl knows that she is fine as she is-hair and all. It would be sad if years later she was struggling to rebuild her self esteem when it comes to her hair and its appearance.
It is outrageous to categorize locks as unacceptable, even if they are neat and well maintained. It is outrageous to bar twists but braids are ok. Unfortunately, this young lady is a senior. Going to a new school may detrimentally affect her class standing and chances at college admission. So, my decision to keep her at this school or pull her out would be more about how it will affect her long term future and not about making the school realize how wrong this policy is. I would want my daughter to know that she is not her hair. I would give her the choice to (1) conform in a manner that she could live with, (2)stay and fight for the freedom to wear her hair in a neat, presentable manner reflective of her heritage or (3) leave. You have to pick your battles.
What does one of the original colors mean? That makes no sense to me. I think that the student and her parents should fight for her right to wear her hair in it's natural state. Perming and coloring hair alters the hair natural state and whites color their hair a lot so I guess they should be against that.
The funny thing is I just went to their school website and looked at a slide show about student life, in the slide show there's a black boy playing in the band with his dreadlocks! The link to the slide show is here http://homepage.mac.com/chamady/CCHS/studentlife.mov
I just would not want my child to go to that school because it doesn't seem like a good fit. It's as simple as that. I realize that certain fights need to be fought, but I personally would prefer that my child not be the one in question. Since the whole point is that she receive an education, I think that something like this would be too much of a distraction.
I grew up going to small private non-Catholic "church-schools", and I remember having guidelines for hair, but not as extreme as this. No mohawks, no funky colors (I dyed my hair purple for Senior pics lol), but dreadlocks were permitted. And girls were allowed to shave the nape of their necks and walk around with ponytails and no hair on the back of their heads…
I understand that private schools are allowed to implement their own guidelines, but to say "no dreads or twisty styles" is definitely outrageous. If the education at this school is worth the money (which I highly doubt, having gone to private schools my whole life), then sure–cut your dreads. It's just for a few years anyway.
I think it's not so easy as just "move to another school". This is her senior year!!!! She would have to completely rebuild her social life for only 1 year and that could be very traumatizing at that age. She is being robbed of one of life's most memorable experiences. How long has she had the locks? IF she had the hairstyle prior to the new clause she should get grandfathered in or something…I'm disgusted. I, too, went to private school. This was never my experience though.
And if the dreadlocks are unacceptable…then surely an afro would be considered a style that is distracting. So what is the poor girl to do with her GOD GIVEN hair?
I think they should take this to a media outlet.Let the local newspaper, TV station and radio stations know. Call the NAACP.As far as schools are concerned , she should find another school if she has that option.
After reading Dr. Austin's article and the original article on this story, I would simply move my student to another school. It takes a lot for ADULTS to embrace their natural hair and even more so for a young person. I certainly wouldn't want to set the precident that if people disagree with your stance in life that the best alternative is to submit to their demand, especially when there are other alternatives. Sisterlocks are beautiful and not "calling attention" to itself. It's a private school true, so they can make their rules (no matter how hypocritical & contridictory) but I would certainly choose to pay my money elsewhere.
According to the principal, Mr. Michael Kaucher, I am the one who started this controversy by posting it on FaceBook. Of course the school started the controversy by instituting a policy and implementing it the way that they did. They told the student that "dreadlocks" are dirty and unkempt." When I called the school to talk to the principal he was ver arrogant, disrespectful and rude. I asked for a meeting with him and he told me that he wasn't meeting with anyone. I then posted on facebook and the natural hair community took up the banner. This is a predominately white school in a black neighborhood that until very recently was very white. Because of Ed Choice vouchers they have been able to pick the best and the brightest of the black communities children to boost their enrollment because the white students are leaving the school.
The student in question has been a paying (tuition) customer of the school.She is a senior with a GPA of 3.85.
We have scheduled a "Wake Up Call" protest for tomorrow (8/25/2011)across the street from the school.
The school's policy reads that Dreadlocks are unacceptable, while Mohawk's are forbidden. I was told yesterday by Mr. Kaucher that Dreadlocks are not natural that you have to do something to them to make them lock. In all of the other forbidden hair styles you have to alter your hair in some way and that is not acceptable. My question for him is that, if permed hair is acceptable, yet your natural state of hair is altered by perming it, why is permed hair acceptable?
this is why i hated when white folks started appropriating dreadlocks as cool or grunge, because they make it seem like having dreads = dirty, sloppy, unkempt, hippy instead of the natural black hairstyle that it is. I've NEVER seen professional neat white ones and so mass society (which is white) starts to associate dreads with the dirty gnarled version that THEIR kids think is so cool, not the actual neat type that this girl more than likely had. That's why they lump it into mohawks, extreme styles.
When I first started reading this, I went directly to "it's racial". I feel the one thing "they" can discriminate against us on, besides our skin color, is our hair. Our hair is extremely unique to our culture, not many groups of people have hair like we do. But then as I read on, it was clear that what they are discriminating against is self-expression, creativity, and culture in general.
The head of this school is clearly setting a terrible example by behaving like a close minded dictator and not allowing at least the presentation of opposing discussion. At the end of the day, these parents are paying to attend your institution. I, like you, would take my money elsewhere. Agreed, an education is important, but where do we teach our children to draw the line and stand up for who they are and who they want to be. There are good educations to be had at a multitude of schools (public schools included).
However, if a parent decided to conform to the rules, I would make no bones about it. I can certainly understand the decision. I think it's trivial for the school to have such strict rules on hair styles when there are so many other important things to focus on…but the other side of that coin is, if this is the best school for your child to attend, should you take them out for something as trivial as hairstyles.
I have attended several private schools from kindergarten to college. I had to get my hair cut from APL to 2inches and leave it that way for three years (middle school). So I don't think its a big deal for the school to reject sister locks/twist styles. The student can go to another accommodating school.
I went to an all girls catholic grade school and high school that was run by nuns. It was the best school on the island so any rules and regulations that I had to abide by you best believe I did, or rather was forced by my parents to comply.
If I felt this school was the best option for my child I would have had her comb the locks out. She has the rest of her life to have dreadlocks.
Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and conform.
I went to a Catholic grade school and Catholic high school but their mission statement only went against hair colors and mohawks. It appears that this school's philosophy contradicts its new policy. How could they slump dreadlocks into the same category as mohawks, hair carvings, spikes, etc.? Maybe they need to do research because more and more corporations are actually accepting dreadlocks into the work place. Sounds like a school that is trying to create a bunch of lemmings rather than individuals. Maybe if they focused more on the education component they could create some well rounded young adults ready for today's society.
Wow, that's terrible. No I wouldn't cut off my sisterlocks or advise my child to comply with that ridiculous school policy. I can't believe they said no twisty styles. So what if she just straight up had an afro..would that be okay? I bet they'd find something to say about that too. smh
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