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Success: Parents, Students Pressured Kentucky School To Change Racist Rules For Natural Hair

By: Krystle Crossman

Butler Traditional High School in Louisville, Kentucky sparked controversy recently when a student went to register and found out that her hair violated the dress code. After looking into the matter further, Attica Scott, a State House candidate, found that cornrows, dreadlocks, afros longer than two inches, twists, and braids (braids for male students) were forbidden. These styles are natural hairstyles for African-American students. Once parents got wind of the policy from a Tweet that was sent out by Scott, outrage prevailed. Scott’s daughter, the student who was trying to register, said that she felt disrespected because the policy said hair needed to be clean and could not have any of the previously mentioned styles. She said it made her wonder if they were calling her hair dirty because of the style that she wore it in.

Scott gathered together with a group of activists in the community to raise awareness about the policy and have it reversed. Scott stated that how you learn is not affected by the way that you wear your hair and the school should not be able to tell you what kind of style you are allowed to have. Superintendent Donna Hargens stated that the policy would be looked over because the school was “adamant” about being inclusive to all students. Scott said that students should not be policed about their hair because they are already have so many rules against them in the schools these days. Hargens stated that this was not a new policy and it has been around for quite some time. It also includes bans on mohawks and unnatural colors. The purpose is to avoid distracting other students from learning.

Scott received an outpouring of support on the issue from social media. She said that it felt like the schools were stating that they were not allowed to express their heritage or their culture. Scott feels that the schools which are predominantly white are trying to force black students to be more like their white counterparts who have not had the struggles that black students have. After the meeting with the school officials on July 29th, the school district decided to suspend the hair policy from the dress code. The discussion was very heated and tensions were high. The school has not stated whether the suspension of the policy will be a permanent fixture or whether it is a bandaid on the problem until a solution that is acceptable to most is found.

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