a massachusetts school is punishing black girls for their braids

Parents say the school's ban on hair extensions unfairly targets black students.

by André-Naquian Wheeler
12 May 2017, 10:40pm

Black and biracial students at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, located in Malden, Massachusetts, are being punished for wearing braids with extensions, Boston Globe reports. The punishments come after the school's administration decided that hair extensions are "very expensive" and go against the school's attempts to create a culture that "emphasizes education rather than style, fashion, or materialism."

Parents of the punished students claim their children were forced to undergo "hair examinations" and asked if "fake hair" was part of their hairstyle or not. Mystic Valley bans other beauty practices like hair coloring, nail polish, and tattoos, Collen Cook, whose daughters were sent to detention for their hair, tells Boston Globe. She argues, however, that the rule against extensions disproportionately, and unfairly, affects the black girls at the charter school.

The argument can be made that, for black girls, hair extensions exist in a different category than the ones celebrities like Kim Kardashian add in for a more voluminous look. They are a mainstay of a number of black hairstyles.

This is not the first time hairstyles popular among black women have been banned. In 2014, the U.S. Army released an updated grooming and appearance policy that banned hairstyles like cornrows, dreadlocks, twists, and braids. With almost all the natural hairstyle options available to black women banned, the Army's new rules raised the question: is chemically processed hair the only acceptable hairstyle for black women? After widespread outrage, the Army rolled back their restrictions — a few months later.

Black women having their braids banned is not isolated to America. Last year, South African school girls banded together and protested after multiple students were sent home for sporting afros and cornrows. The girls launched a petition that received over 20,000 signatures online and created the hashtag #StopRacismAtPretoriaGirlsHigh on Twitter.

No word yet on if Mystic Valley plans to adjust its ban. 


Text André-Naquian 
Photography Tobias Brixen via Flickr Creative Commons