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When Black Hair Violates The Dress Code

Raising teenage women could be a tough job. Raising black teenage ladies as white dad and mom could be even tougher. Aaron and Colleen Cook knew that once they adopted their twin daughters, Mya and Deanna.

As spring came around this year, the girls, who just turned 16, told their parents they needed to get braided hair extensions. Their dad and mom happily obliged, wanting Mya and Deanna to feel closer to their black heritage.

But when the girls got to highschool, they were asked to step out of class. Both were given several infractions for violating the dress code. Mystic Valley Regional Charter College, north of Boston, bans hair extensions in its costume code, deeming them “distracting.”

When administrators requested the girls to remove their braids, Mya and Deanna refused.
The following day, Colleen and Aaron Cook came to the school where, they say, they had been advised the women’ hair wanted to be “fastened.” The Cooks refused, telling administrators that there was nothing fallacious with the hairstyle.

Mya and Deanna Cook, 16, with their dad and mom, Aaron and Colleen Cook. Courtesy of the Cook family. conceal caption

Mya and Deanna Cook, 16, with their dad and mom, Aaron and Colleen Cook.
As punishment, the ladies were removed from their extracurricular activities, barred from prom and threatened with suspension if they did not change their hair.

Based on Colleen Cook, administrators at Mystic Valley have routinely reprimanded black students for costume code violations involving hair.

Different black ladies have been pulled out of class, she says, lined up, asked if they had hair extensions and given detention if they did.

Colleen remembers when one pupil, who wore her hair in its pure texture, was taken out of class and advised that she would have to calm down, or chemically straighten, her hair earlier than returning to high school the next day.

In defense of their daughters, the Cooks brought in a yearbook to show school leaders the many white female students with hair extensions and dyed hair.

But, the Cooks say, the administration didn’t see that those college students had been in violation of the dress code, stating those hair alterations weren’t as apparent.

NPR reached out to Mystic Valley Regional for an interview several times and not using a response.
The Cooks contacted the NAACP, Anti-Defamation League and ACLU to file a complaint in opposition to the college, calling the costume code discriminatory to students of color, particularly black females.

After much pressure, the college suspended enforcement of the costume code until the end of the 12 months.
Noticing a development

In recent times, black women have been sent house for carrying dreads, head wraps and even wearing their hair naturally.

In schools across the country, black pupil suspension rates are greater than their peers’. In charter colleges, kindergarten by eighth grade, these charges are even greater.

Having a costume code is one thing, but denying an education for it defies logic.
Daniel J. Losen, director, Center for Civil Rights Cures

In reality, Daniel J. Losen, director of the middle for Civil Rights Cures, discovered that at the very best-suspending charter colleges within the nation, the majority of students were black.

Though databases for infractions vary from state to state, in a current analysis, half of suspensions in charter colleges had been for minor nonviolent offenses, together with costume code violations.

Particularly, Losen’s analysis reveals that in Massachusetts, the Cooks’ dwelling state, black students at charters lose 24 more days of instruction to suspension than do white students.

“Having a costume code is one thing, but denying an training for it defies logic,” says Losen.
Zero tolerance results in excessive suspension rates

Dorinda J. Carter Andrews, assistant dean of equity outreach initiatives at Michigan State University, says that black females are more likely to receive harsher discipline than their white and Latina counterparts.

Her research on zero tolerance policies and their outcomes shows that they enforce a marginalization of black girls in faculties. Which can, in apply, criminalize their black identity.

“What does a headdress must do with learning and success ” asks Carter Andrews.
She finds it strange that hair would even be a part of a dress code. It’s not a choice, but an aspect of one’s body. Which raises a question: Is a zero tolerance policy for hair — where students could be suspended without warning — less a couple of costume code and extra a few racial code

What does a headdress have to do with learning and success
Dorinda J. Carter Andrews, assistant dean of equity outreach at Michigan State University

In her research, Carter Andrews has found that any such policing has a detrimental effect on black ladies in colleges and how their friends view them, further enforcing adverse stereotypes.

Black girls are often seen as being loud or aggressive and are overly disciplined because of that stigma. Andrews finds that leads to low shallowness and underperformance at school for these college students.

Jamilia Blake, who seems at the “adultification” of black girls in schools, believes stereotypes of black adults are put on black children in schools, and black ladies particularly.

Blake sees strict costume codes as a manner of concentrating on sure college students without using racial language. By using certain restrictions on hairstyles and dress, school officials are enforcing the policing of black youth.

Toward the end of the school 12 months, the Cook twins, Mya and Deanna, had been allowed to participate of their extracurricular actions. That was after much upset from friends and supporters and a word of warning full head weave with closure from the Massachusetts lawyer basic to school leaders at Mystic Valley Regional Charter.

Meanwhile, the Cooks continue to advocate for his or her daughters because the costume code combat goes on. The college hasn’t made any plans, publicly, to change the regulations around hair.

Colleen Cook desires people to know that they’re fighting not just for their daughters but for the opposite black women in the college who have felt victimized.

When our daughters stroll with us, they have our white privilege. When they’re not with us, they’re black kids.

Aaron Cook, father of Mya and Deanna Cook
Mystic Valley has put out a press release in protection of its dress code policy, stating that the restrictions on hair extensions exist in order that the college can promote equity. Hair extensions — it reads — could be expensive.

The Cooks believe this experience has helped them notice the world their daughters must face.
“When our daughters stroll with us, they have our white privilege. When they are not with us, they’re black youngsters,” says Aaron Cook.

Colleen agrees, including, “I feel like the college is pushing us to boost them as white children, but that’s not who they’re or who they’re going to be.”

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The Cooks value their kids’s black heritage and want them to be happy with themselves at house and at college. They will proceed to combat to make that occur.

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