Make policies to protect against bias to natural black hair and hair for religious purpose

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Presenting Complaint

In Apopka, FL, A Book’s Christian Academy, a private school, has a rule in their student handbook in regards specifically to unacceptable hairstyles. One hairstyle specific to students of African descent, dreadlocks, is deemed as unacceptable.

Background Story

Clinton Stanley Sr. went to drop his six-year-old son off for his first day of school at a private school, A Book’s Christian Academy, where he planned for his son to attend using the “Step-up scholarship.” “Step-up” is a scholarship based on the promise of equal opportunity, and empowering parents to give their children a better education. The Florida tax credit scholarship program which Clinton Jr. receives through “Step-up” is based on income and “directly targets students with the fewest options available.”  It also identifies the nearest school for the parent that accepts the “Step-Up” scholarship, which in this case would be A Book’s Christian Academy.

Income, however, or lack of this scholarship, is not what kept Clinton Jr. from entering his first-grade classroom on the first day of school. It was his natural hair and a policy in the school’s parent/student handbook that prevented him.

The handbook reads:

  •          Girls should have uniform skirt, button down embroidered shirt, cross tie, with black shoes and socks. Girls may wear post earrings – No hoops or other jewelry. Hair should be neat with no unnatural color.
  •          Boys should have dark blue pants and an embroidered uniform shirt and navy tie, black shoes and navy socks. All boy’s hair must be a tapered cut, off the collars and ears. There are to be no dreads, Mohawks, designs, unnatural color, or unnatural designs. No combs or net caps.

Despite the fact that Clinton Stanley Sr. was never provided this handbook, it was not accessible via Internet, at the time of enrollment or at this current moment and was advised via email that he had successfully enrolled his son into A Book’s Christian Academy , he did not find out about this policy until the first day of school when he literally attempted to drop his son off at the school.

At first, he was advised that the policy his son was in violation of was that his son’s hair could not pass his ears. A dilemma that his son attempted to remedy by suggesting he could place his hair into a ponytail which would mean it wouldn’t pass his ears. Albeit, their website shows an advertisement video with a young Caucasian male with hair that you can see physically passing his ears. When the administrator at the school heard this suggestion, they then referred to the policy that stated that dreads were not allowed at all.

 

A link to this incident from the father's page via a Facebook live video is at: https://www.facebook.com/coachfatdaddy.lovedakids/videos/vb.100000291585116/2050140011672365/?type=3

 

While some may argue that the rules are the rules and they are meant to be followed, we question the existence of a policy that dictates what type of hair is seen as unacceptable and unnatural for African-American children. Especially a policy at an institution that has a student body primarily of African-American descent (total student body numbers up to 40 or so students). The list that encompasses dreads as a policy violation also lists mohawks, designs, unnatural color or unnatural designs, which are all unnatural hair designs, but dreads do not fall into this category. In fact, if most African-American people were to leave their hair unattended it would eventually lock up on its own and form its own dreadlocks.

Thus, Clinton Jr., a six-year-old with dreadlocks was forced into two options, cut his locks, or withdraw from the school that he was properly enrolled in, and paid for through means of the “Step-Up” scholarship.

In private schools, throughout the town of Apopka and Orange County as a whole, black children are refused an education because of their hair. In a private school across the street from the one Clinton Jr was denied access, a handbook also states students are not to wear “hairstyles” that appear to be “bushy” or “full”. Policies such as these disproportionately affect black children who have naturally “full” hair.

The issue is that these ideas about natural black hair being not neat and unacceptable continue to manifest into unreasonable policies embedded in anti-black racism or racist ideas about what type of hair is appropriate and what is not. When asked why these policies around natural hair exist, the answer is simply, “those are just the rules.”

CALL TO ACTION:

We don’t believe these should be the rules. We believe these are cultural insensitive and bias ideas that translate into school policies that keep black children out of schools and limit their options to obtain an education.

We are demanding change!

We are requesting that Step-Up creates a policy that excludes any recepient from attending a school with such policies that potentially or actively discriminate against a race’s natural hair or a person’s hair for religious purposes. We are also requesting that public and private schools in Florida undergo “cultural competency” trainings that encompass learning about specific races and cultures’ natural hair and appearance regarding this policy change.

To ban children from any educational institution because of their natural hair is a subtle effort to remind certain communities of children, specifically African-American youth in this context, that they are not welcome or accepted as they are, lest they change or alter themselves.

It is time to challenge discriminating policies about African-American hair. It is time to change outdated rules that further oppress African-American children. This school, like most cannot offer a rational reason for this rule and are not treating its students with unbiased acceptance and respect.

In the wake of this incident major key figures have emerged as supporters such as Shaun King, Media TakeOut, Vivica L. Fox, Tom Joyner, OccupyDemocrats and more. A Book's Christian Academy has removed their Facebook page and deleted the link to their parent/student handbook from their website that lists this policy.

To view the sharing of the video by major outlets such as Media Takeout, you can view it at: To view the sharing of the video by major outlets such as Media Takeout, you can view it at: https://www.facebook.com/mediatakeout/videos/246702265971472/UzpfSTc5OTUzOTkxMDA4NDkyOToxOTQ4MzYwNjE1MjAyODQ3/

Again, this is a rule that is being enforced in many schools across the U.S., the state, and Orange County. We cannot continue to accept this type of bias because “it’s the rule”. These rules limit a child’s options to an education simply because of their hair and it is time they change. It is time that we shift our mindset from “it’s the rules” to the importance of building positive self-esteem in black children.

It is time that we push back.



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