Malden Students Punished For Hair Extensions Say School Policy Is Racist

MALDEN (CBS) – Two Mystic Valley Regional Charter School students have been banned from track, banished from the Latin Club and are not allowed at any school events due to to hair code violations.

Twin sisters Deanna and Mya Scott, 15, who are black, were punished because the school’s dress code says braid extensions aren’t allowed.

“I was really excited to be celebrating my culture because I have white parents and it’s very important to participate in the culture,” Mya said.

The 15-year-olds are two of five siblings adopted by Colleen and Aaron Cook.

“I’m angry, I feel like my children are beautiful, they’re black, they should be proud of themselves, I’m very proud of them,” Colleen Cook said.

“So far I have received multiple detentions, I am banned from the track team, I can no longer attend Latin Club, and I’m not allowed to go to any other school events,” Deanna said.

cooks Malden Students Punished For Hair Extensions Say School Policy Is Racist

Mya and Deanna Scott (WBZ-TV)

School Interim Director Alexander Dan says that their policy is to minimize fashion expenses for school families.

“The specific prohibition of hair extensions, which are expensive and could serve as a differentiating factor between students from dissimilar socioeconomic backgrounds, is consistent with our desire to create an educational environment, one that celebrates all that students have in common and minimizes material differences and distractions,” Dan said.

However, Deanna says she thinks the hair policy is racist.

“What they’re saying is we can’t wear extensions, and the people who wear extensions are black people,” Deanna said. “They wear them as braids to protect their hair and they’re not allowing us to do that.”

deanna and mia1 Malden Students Punished For Hair Extensions Say School Policy Is Racist

Deanna and Mya with their mom. The girls are facing suspension for hair code violations at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School. (Photo credit: WBZ-TV)

Deanna’s father agrees.

“The policy specifically discriminates against African-American children as it relates to hair extensions,” Aaron Cook said. “You typically do not see Caucasian children with hair extensions. The fact that it’s in the handbook does not make it a non-discriminatory policy.”

The Cooks have recruited help from the ACLU, Anti-Defamation League and the Attorney General’s office.

Robert Treston is the regional head of the ADL and he says he’s concerned about the policy.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions and we’re very concerned that the school policy, the way it’s apparently being implemented, may have a discriminatory impact,” Treston said.

However, Treston says his organization wanted to first try to learn the facts.

“When we first got the call from the parents, our first instinct was to reach out to the school to get a sense of what is going on,” Treston said. “So it’s important now for these unanswered questions to be investigated so people have a sense that the school policies are being applied in an equitable way.”

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice Education Project Director Matthew Cregor said in a letter to the school’s interim director that the policy may violate federal anti-discrimination law.

“The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education recently released guidance for school districts on the nondiscriminatory administration of school discipline,” Cregor wrote. “This civil rights guidance is directly relevant to your school’s discriminatory treatment of the Cook twins for three reasons: First, the parents in today’s article expressed concern that white students who dye their hair are not facing the same consequences as black students with braids or extensions. This is especially troubling as your policy does not even discuss suspending students for hair/makeup violations, something that the article suggests has happened.”

“Second, unlike the jewelry and nail polish prohibited in your code, braids and extensions are worn primarily by African-American and Afro-Caribbean students, raising concerns of discriminatory treatment. Third, it is hard to understand how braiding, a deep-rooted cultural practice of people of African descent, can be put in the same category as the ‘drastic and unnatural hair colors’ your code prohibits as ‘distracting,'” Cregor also wrote.

The project director went to to suggest that the school’s hiring policies are also discriminatory, noting that only one of the schools 156 teachers is black.

Interim School Director Alexander Dan still says the school, “Would like to focus on what unites our students and reduce visible gaps between those of different means.”

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports

Comments

One Comment

  1. Monad Nock says:

    This is now the middle of May. Why was this not an issue at the start of the school year? I’m sure the school didn’t decide this exclusion in the past few days. Like the uniforms and the rest of the school’s dress code, students knew the rules on entering school in September. Whether the hair extension policy is right or wrong, why wasn’t this addressed at the start of the school year by the students/parent(s) to the school administration if this was so important to them? Doing an end around and u
    sing the media to get what you want makes the whole story a bit suspect, unless there’s more to the story than is being told.

    1. Hello,
      Either the policy wasn’t in place in August 2016, which I believe you already
      stated, or else they didn’t agree with the Hair policy, or both, LOL. They have been dismissed from sports, put in detention, suspended, banned from prom… all b/c of braids. So unfair.
      Beyond despair. Clearly, they need to SUE the pants off the school and leave. Just go to another school, you are NOT wanted there. They are racist. Life is toooooooo short. Don’t worry about it, you’ll find a school deserving of you.
      ///I can get a bundle of hair from the Dollar Store for a Dollar, and braid my whole head for a month, which is cheaper than going to the beauty salon, or
      spending $5/week on Conditioner. Or, I can always use
      yarn LOL. yarn I can pull from an old sweater. Or, I can get it from
      the dollar store and swerve on about 2 months with it. [I’m glad I stayed in MO and never moved to MA.

  2. The White girls and other Races of girls wear extensions too. They are not always braided up, but they wear them as well. Next thing they can’t have ChapStick either.

  3. This does seem racist. How you wear your hair should not be a problem as long as it is neat and presentable, And the girls look very nice in this style. What about the white girls who wear extensions to make their hair appear longer or fuller? I think this is going to far, and the school is just making a big ta-do about nothing. Don’t they have more important things to police the kids about? This screams discrimination.

  4. They are in the latin club! OMG the school should be grateful to have such students. I have seen no mention of how the rule is actually worded in the handbook. If it simply says “distracting” Then the school is wrong as their hair is not unnatural in nature. As far as them being expensive, well how does the school know what they paid for them. Perhaps the price was not expensive as a keratin treatment or a blowout which cost over $100. Are they banning Blowouts? if an African American girl has her hair in braids, it is not always extensions. I SUGGEST EACH OF THEIR WHITE FRIENDS GO GET BO DERRICK STYLE BRAIDS AND SEE WHAT THE SCHOOL HAS TO SAY ABOUT IT.

  5. Elaine Finn says:

    The school doesn’t want other students to feel inferior if they can’t afford hair extensionss? So,does that apply to clothing,shoes and artificial nails which a lot of girls have now? Some girls have purple or pink streaks in their hair is this allowed? I hope the parents sue the school and win!

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