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JaQ Lee, a middle school teacher, is facing criticism for permitting a group of his female students to remove his braids just 10 minutes before dismissal. He livestreamed the entire event.

On May 8, Lee, who shares his experiences as a teacher on his @thilluminator Instagram page, revealed that he received criticism online for what he believed to be an innocent interaction with his students. Some labeled the act as “inappropriate.” However, supporters quickly came to the educator’s defense, arguing that the students removing his braids was entirely acceptable, and those finding it strange were overreacting.

Lee provided additional context about the incident for those upset about the situation.

“I had a hair appointment immediately after school, and I needed my hair taken out before. I would have taken it out the night before. But that Friday, we had a camera crew coming in to shoot a promotional video, and I was one of the ones being interviewed. So I had to look presentable,” he said.


Providing further context, Lee explained that since it was Friday and all of his middle school students had excelled in their class projects, he decided to let them “have fun” as a reward. He dismissed class early, and during this time, students who volunteered began to remove his braids. Among them were pupils from his own class, as well as children from other classes who had also performed well on their projects and were given free time as a reward.

Lee wondered if similar comments would arise if he were a woman, pondering whether his interaction with female pupils would be labeled as “weird.” Despite any criticism, the middle school teacher remained steadfast in his belief that there was nothing odd about letting his students remove his braids. For him, it represented an opportunity to forge a deeper connection with his students that transcended beyond the classroom.

“Me personally, I don’t think there’s anything weird about this. People saying ‘Oh, that’s too intimate.’ To me, It’s literally just hair. It doesn’t have to be weird. Some people have never had cool teachers before and it shows. I personally believe that building authentic relationships with students is paramount in being an effective teacher. I make sure my students know and can feel that I care about them beyond the schoolwork and all the stuff that I have to make them do. I take the time to get to know my students outside of academics, because caring for the whole child is what’s important.”

Addressing concerns about whether the children’s parents were aware of the livestream, Lee reassured that many of his students’ parents follow him on social media and appreciate the unique bond he builds with their child. Additionally, the school administration is aware of his social media presence and “love” his content. 

“To me, this is just another wholesome moment that I’m having with my kids and I was just fortunate enough to catch on film,” he added. 


Instagram users launched into more discourse about the video in the comments section.  

Numerous users expressed their support for Lee’s livestream, with one user identifying themselves as a parent of one of Lee’s students. She stated that the middle school teacher’s interaction with students was harmless and emphasized the importance of children forming healthy “non-sexual relationships with men to better understand how they SHOULD be treated and addressed.”

The user added, “Mommy and Daddy can’t protect them 24/7, and they need to know safe spaces outside the home. For the parents who said they wouldn’t allow their daughters to do this, you aren’t there to forbid them in the moment, so your daughter would most likely participate if they felt comfortable. Our daughters are sexualized daily and the true innocence of ‘playing in hair’ is overlooked. These girls grew up doing this to their dolls, what makes this so inappropriate? @thilluminator you know I’m one of your biggest supporters, some parents have no idea the craziness their daughters really face…”

Another fan penned, “I have a daughter, and I don’t see the issue with this. You’re in a classroom with a bunch of other people, hands are above the table… Doesn’t seem like you’re getting any jollies out of this. I’m glad that you have the kind of rapport in the classroom where the kids feel comfortable helping you out when you ask. “

Still, some users said it was inappropriate for Lee to allow his students to touch his hair. 

“I ain’t hating. But ain’t no way in hell I’m approving my daughter to do this. Sorry.”

Another naysayer wrote, “Why didn’t you ask male students to help you?”

The comment received a flurry of replies from Instagram users puzzled by the response.

One objector on Instagram replied, “Why are you bringing up boys? What’s the difference? Don’t paddle backwards, you are the one sexualizing it because if you weren’t, there would be no difference.”

What do you think of Lee’s video? Was it wrong for him to allow students to take out his braids in class?


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