A Massachusetts High School is Punishing Black Girls for Wearing Braids

Having your hair examined while on public display. Being detained just for the way you look. Experiencing separation from others because you refuse to deny your culture. This isn’t a scene from a centuries-old auction block; it’s what’s been going down lately at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden, Mass.

The Boston Globe reports that Black girls at this school are actually being sent to detention, given suspensions, banned from prom and after-school activities just for wearing their hair in braids. Yes, choosing to proudly rock a style invented and worn by their ancestors, a style that is central to African-American hair culture — is their only “offense.” In fact, these girls aren’t girls with disciplinary issues — they represent the National Honor Society, the honor roll, and are just good students overall. Deanna Cook, the mother of 15-year-old twin girls who wear box braids, told the Globe that Black and biracial children were marched through the hallways to have their hair inspected. Another, the parent of 14-year-old Jaden, said her daughter along with 20 other girls were sent to the principal’s office and asked if their braids had “fake” hair in them. If they answered, “yes,” they were given detention. Another student who refused to remove her braids was even suspended!

Instead of admitting to their blatantly racist policy and how it actually does harm to Black girls, Mystic Valley is defending it. In a recently released statement, the school said, “We purposefully promote equity by focusing on what unites our students and reducing visible gaps between those of different means … 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 student’s success.”

So, an environment that disproportionately targets Black girls is one of success? An environment that is hostile to Black girls’ culture is conducive to learning? An environment that tells Black girls they have to deny their heritage or be banned from after-school activities and prom, speaks “unity?” “Equity” actually means punishing those who are different from you?

Mystic Valley, your racism is showing, and your excuses are tired.

(Also, how do you know how much their extensions cost anyway — we can get 10 packs of braiding hair for $40 or less at the beauty supply store and have our play cousin hook it up, so…)

Annette Namuddu, who’s 15-year-old daughter Lauren was suspended for not taking her braids out, knows the deal. “It’s discrimination,” she told the Globe. “I see white kids with colored hair and you are not supposed to color your hair, and they walk around like it’s nothing.”

For the full story, check out The Boston Globe‘s article here.


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