Massachusetts Charter School Punishes Black Students For Braided Hair Extensions

Mya Cook (left) and her sister Deanna (right). Photo by Jonathan Wiggs/Boston Globe

UPDATE #2: The board of trustees of the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden, Massachusetts, have unanimously voted to suspend its dress code policy on students that wear braids in their hair. The school reportedly tossed out the section of the dress code that prohibited hair extensions after privately meeting to discuss a letter from state Attorney General Maura Healy, who said the policy violated state and federal law.

UPDATE: Following reports of the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden, Massachusetts, punishing its students for wearing braids (which the school claims are against its dress policy), the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has filed a complaint against the school, as well as the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, stating that the policy is discriminatory.

Read the original story below.

Parents of black students attending a charter school in Massachusetts believe their children are being disciplined specifically because of their hairstyles.

In a report from the Boston Globe, black students attending the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden, Massachusetts, have been punished for wearing braids in their hair since April, facing detention and suspension by administrators who say that the hairstyles violate the school’s dress code.

Colleen Cook, one of the mothers spoken to in the story whose twin daughters, Deanna and Mya, attend the school says that both of them have received multiple detentions and could face suspension for their braids. Deanna and Mya have also been kicked out of after-school sports and banned from the prom for refusing to remove their braids.

“They teach them at a very high academic level and I appreciate that, and that’s why they go to the school,” Cook said. “But, unfortunately, they don’t have any sensitivity to diversity at all.”

Cook said that her daughters had never encountered objections from the school until late April of this year when students returned from spring break, with the administration going so far as to march black and biracial children down the hall to inspect their hair.

The school released the following statement in regards to its ban on braids, saying:

“One important reason for our students’ success is that we purposefully promote equity by focusing on what unites our students and reducing visible gaps between those of different means. Our policies, including those governing student appearance and attire, foster a culture that emphasizes education rather than style, fashion, or materialism. 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 students’ success.”

Cook is currently seeking assistance from the NAACP and the state’s Anti-Defamation League, with the latter having met school administrators on Friday.