Go Home and Fix your Hair

For this week’s lesson, we learned about how stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination can have dire effects on the education system. We were told to watch two videos: The first being the experiment with Jane Elliott’s A Class Divided (Frontline, 1985) and the second being the Bandura Bobo Doll Experiment (H Kaplan, 2009). However, the experiment with Jane Elliot caught my attention, because this issue that she was trying to address could be compared to some issues that students face in a school setting.

The day after Martin Luther King jr was assassinated, Jane Elliot, a small-town teacher from Iowa, did a daring experiment where she treated children with blue eyes as the superior children and the children with brown eyes as inferior-this led to children with blue eyes discriminating the children with brown eyes. These children from the experiment are still affected by this experiment till this day (Frontline, 1985).

Elliott’s experiment reminded me of an issue that we are facing today. Children are being sent home, suspended from school, and discriminated against because of their hair. Children with curly hair, in particular African Americans, are getting into trouble in schools, simply because their natural hair is not in accordance with school policy. There are many videos and articles circling around social media, showing young children often crying as they have to leave school, because they have been told to fix their hair or else they would not be able to attend class (Sini, 2018). Children with this particular type of hair texture are being singled out in front of other classmates and being told that if they do not follow school policies they will get into trouble.

The children’s hair are usually in styles such as braids, cornrows, dreadlocks, or simply a brushed out afro. The children are often told that they have unnatural hair styles and that is the reason for being sent home or suspended from school; however, the other children with bleached hair or highlights do not get sent home from school, which leads to the children feeling discriminated against. Two young twin sisters from a Massachusetts school got suspended from school because they were told that their braided hair extensions did not follow school policy (Mettler, 2017). The two sisters, Mya and Deanna Cook, felt that they were being punished for being black and that the policy disrespected black girls. The girls were kicked off school sports teams, banished from prom, and received hours of detention for refusing to change their professionally braided hair. The mother of the twins mentioned that all the black girls in the school were taken outside for hair inspection; this is disturbing because this singles out the girls and is a direct form of discrimination (Mettler, 2017). This reminded me of Elliott’s experiment “A Class Divided” (Frontline, 1985). Young black girls are being singled out and the other students who are not black are watching the event take place. What is the school teaching black and non-black students?  The schools are teaching them lifelong lessons of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination against black girls and that some hairstyles and hair textures are intolerable. They are teaching young black girls that their natural hair and hairstyles are unacceptable. The teachers across the country should not be allowed to do such things. They are setting a terrible example for the young children attending these schools.

Majority of American school policies have dress codes that also address what hairstyles are allowed and not allowed in schools. The dress codes mentioned things such as hairstyle should not be distracting to other students or children should have their natural hair color (nprEd, 2017). These policies are then used to discriminate the young children’s hair and deemed as distracting (nprEd, 2017).

Should hairstyles and hair texture really be a determination of a child’s performance in school? Hairstyles such as braids, cornrows and dreadlocks are natural hairstyles and can be compared to a ponytail. These hairstyles are worn as a way to either manage, style, and protect (protective hairstyles) children’s hair. Just because they have a different way of wearing their hair does not mean that it is a bad or a negative thing–it is simply a hairstyle. And when you brush out curly hair, the hairs will separate and create an afro hairstyle.

Young children are being deprived from being able to go to school. In an article published in nprEd (2017) titled, “When Black Hair Violates the Dress Code” addressed the issue of young black girls being suspended from schools because of breaking the dress code and furthermore, it interferes with the girls’ education. In the article by Daniel J. Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies, it stated that black student suspension rates are higher than their peers’. In addition, he found that at the highest-suspending charter schools in the nation, the majority of students were black. The article also mentions that when analyzing what the suspensions in charter schools were for, it consisted of minor nonviolent offenses including dress code violation, which were half of all the subsections in schools across the country (nprEd, 2017).

This is a discrimination that many young children are facing in our schools, we must revisit our school policies and furthermore come to the conclusion that children with curly hair are not a distraction or unnatural and that their hairstyles, which have been worn for centuries, are not going to distract other students or interfere with their learning abilities. Students facing this discrimination are experiencing limitation to the education they receive and furthermore this type of discrimination can impact their mental health. Young girls and boys should not be denied education because of their hair.


References :

Frontline. (1985). A Class Divided. Retrieved online at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/divided/ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

H Kaplan. (2009, Nov. 19). Bandura Bobo Doll. Retrieved from Bandura Bobo Doll.wmv (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Mettler, Katie Mettler (2017, May 22)Black Girls at Mass. school win freedom to wear hair braid extensions. Retrived from  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/05/22/black-girls-at-mass-school-win-freedom-to-wear-hair-braid-extensions/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.79fac7dd56d3

nprEd (2017, July 17). When Black Hair Violets The Dress Code. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/07/17/534448313/when-black-hair-violates-the-dress-code

Sini, Rozina (2018 Aug. 23). US School Faces Backlash after black Student’s Unnatural Hair Criticised. Retrieved from  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45269540




1 comment

  1. Hey,

    You chose a great topic! While schools are supposed to be a safe place for all kids to learn and develop social skills, it is apparent that many schools across the nation are discriminating against African Americans. Dreadlocks, cornrows and braids are seen as “unprofessional” and “inappropriate” because “white hair” has become the norm. Only recently, a New Jersey high school wrestler Andrew Johnson was made by the referee to cut his dreadlocks before the match to qualify to compete. This humiliating act was performed in front of hundreds of people and went viral on social media. This is a message to Andrew and many more young students and athletes that they don’t belong in the group. This type of social categorization is dangerous and harmful to students who have to compete with the “norm” to become successful.

    Annie Saroyan

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