By Tenisha Mercer
Officials at an Orlando private school who reportedly told 12-year-old Vanessa VanDyke to cut her natural hair or be expelled, have reversed their ruling -- sort of. They say they won't expel the girl over her natural hair, but it still doesn't give the young student the ability to wear her hair unaltered.
Faith Christian Academy school administrators told an Orlando TV station on Tuesday, "we're not asking her to put products in her hair or cut her hair. We're asking her to style her hair within the guidelines according to the school handbook."
It's not time to applaud.
School: Cut your natural hair?
The school had told Vanessa VanDyke to cut her shoulder length natural hair or get expelled, and cited a school policy that forbade hair that is a "distraction," among other things. It does not specifically spell out natural hair, but does mention color and styles such as mohawks.
I'm not buying it. Since when can a school tell a girl how to style the hair that grows from her head naturally?
Vanessa's mother, Sabrina Kent, isn't budging on her daughter's hair style, and so far has refused to changed it. Kent alleges her child was bullied by other students about her natural hair and after she complained, school officials turned their anger towards 12-year-old Vanessa.
Her parents, Sam and Sabrina Kent, released this statement:
Faith Christian Academy is a quality school that has given much to Vanessa’s education. The Teaching and auxiliary staff I have met over the years have been warm, supportive, disciplined, and knowledgeable educators. My wife and I have had no wish to besmirch the name of this school. We regret that we had to “go public” with this issue, but the school’s administration left us with no alternative.
We stand firm in the belief that schools should celebrate cultural, ethnic, and racial differences and capitalize on them to enrich the curriculum and education of young people. Instead of labeling Vanessa’s hair as a so-called “distraction”, the “distracted” students should be taught about this aspect in history of the African American experience.This is the history of a people that makes up almost ⅓ of this school’s student body.
Black Americans in slavery had to alter their natural appearance to be “presentable” as servants in the homes of their white masters. Since slavery’s end, African Americans have had to spend an inordinate fraction of their budgets on hair products and processes to make themselves acceptable to the white majority of society. Because white society has made African Americans feel ashamed of their natural appearance, many African Americans have damaged or lost their hair using harsh chemicals to straighten their hair.
Teaching bullies about the tradition of oppression they honor when they mock hair like Vanessa's could go a long way toward ending the bullying. Suppressing differences by calling them a distraction licenses the puerile racist bullying of 12 and 13 year-olds.
Teach about differences and celebrate them. Teach about the wrongs done to a people made to feel inferior and ugly because of who they are. Teach them to see the beauty in difference. Teach the bullies to grow up. Teach them that they associate themselves with Nazi anthropologists and racists bigots when they mock racial differences."
The statement is signed Sam and Sabrina Kent.
The school said this in response:
"We are not asking her to put products in her hair or to cut her hair," read a statement sent to Local 6 on Tuesday. "We are asking her to style her hair within the guidelines according to the school handbook."
This case is far from over. I love the Kent's response -- very educational. Sadly, I don't think this will get the school to change their mind.
Afro Glitz on Facebook has launched a petition drive. Please sign it. I did.