Tried It: Kentucky School Attempts To Ban Locs, “Cornrolls,” Twists And Braids; State Legislature Shuts Them Down

August 2, 2016  |  

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How would you react if your child brought home school registration info that stated that natural hairstyles were “not permitted”? I’d personally be pissed. But instead of just getting angry, Attica Scott, the first African American woman to serve in Kentucky’s State Legislature in 20 years, took to Twitter to share the shenanigans being encouraged by her daughter’s school, Butler Traditional High, part of Jefferson County Public Schools. That’s where this story began:

Among the so-called distracting styles included “dreadlocks, cornrolls, twists,” as well as afros, particularly for boys, above two inches. Braids were also prohibited for young men.

On a side note though, if I were a student, I would just go to school and say, “These? Well these are cornrows not rolls, so they aren’t part of the prohibited list, ma’am/sir.”

Anywho, Scott, who wears locs herself, said she would call the school to share her displeasure with Black students being targeted over their natural hair. And just like that, the word was out. The new hair rules caused quite the uproar on social media, with many people speaking out about the blatant racism and memes like the following being created:

“I don’t understand why we’re going to focus on something like natural hair styles when we should be focused on education,” Scott told Kentucky’s Courier-Journal. “They specifically outlined hairstyles that are worn most by black kids. To me, this stinks of institutional racism.”

From there, everyone from the Jefferson County Public Schools chief equity officer to the American Civil Liberties Union in the state spoke out against the policy, saying that they would be reviewing it. After the outcry, JCPS superintendent Donna Hargens said that schools in the district would be instructed to review their dress policies to ensure “their policies are not obtrusive, do not conflict with board policy and most importantly do not infringe on the many cultures embraced across our school district.” This is important as there have been complaints in the past of schools in the district having differing dress code policies.

As The Courier-Journal pointed out, the alleged consequences for going against Butler’s policy for hair would have been pretty tough.

“Students who fail to follow the school’s dress code are placed on in-school suspension until a parent brings more appropriate attire, according to the handbook,” the Journal shared. The publication noted that insubordination in terms of the dress code could “result in a recommendation for release from the traditional program and a transfer to a more appropriate placement.”

But after growing criticism and a special meeting late last week, Butler chose to reportedly temporarily suspend the policy. At the meeting, students even spoke up to media to share that they shouldn’t have to conform and press out their hair in order to not be deemed a “distraction”:

Scott, who started the conversation, thanked those who stood up against the policy and reminded people that how students are treated in the classroom shapes their all-around experience:

Hopefully this policy will stay suspended indefinitely. I think we all get the importance of dress codes and the reality that yes, some looks can be a distraction in the classroom. However, there is no greater distraction than a young Black child being singled out for their hair in that same classroom when the focus should be on their education. If such hair rules don’t apply to everyone, they’re meant to bring down a select few, and in the words of Sweet Brown, ain’t nobody got time for that. Kudos to Scott for speaking up and creating change for her daughter and many other young people.

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