Schools Criticized For Bans on Dreadlocks, Afros

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“The public banning of our hair or anything about us that looks like we look, it feels like it’s such a step backward.”

Bond founded the organization in response to an episode in 2007 when radio host Don Imus called members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.” He later apologized.

In Chicago, Leila Noelliste has been blogging about natural hair at for about five years. She has followed the school cases closely. The 28-year-old mother with a natural hairstyle and two daughters who also wear their hair that way said it is a touchy issue among African-Americans and others.

“This is the way the hair grows out of my head, yet it’s even shocking in some black communities, because we’ve kind of been told culturally that to be acceptable and to make other people kind of comfortable with the way that we look, we should straighten our hair, whether through heat or chemicals,” she said. “So whether we’re in non-black communities or black communities, with our natural hair, we stand out. It evokes a lot of reaction.”

Particularly painful, said Noelliste and others, is the notion that natural styles are not hygienic.

“Historically natural hair has been viewed as dirty, unclean, unkempt, messy,” she said. “An older black generation, there’s this idea of African-American exceptionalism, that the way for us to get ahead is to work twice as hard as any white person and to prove that if we just work hard and we look presentable we’ll get ahead, and that’s very entrenched. My generation, we’re saying that that’s not fair. We should be able to show up as we are and based on our individual merit and effort be judged on that.”

Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said legal rulings on hair and other issues pertaining to school dress codes have been fairly clear.

“For decades now, Supreme Court precedent has reaffirmed that clothing, including hairstyle, is part of a student’s speech, and if you’re going to interfere with that, then the school district has to make some findings beforehand demonstrating that there is an immediate threat to the academic environment,” he said. “That wasn’t the case here and in most dress-code cases.”

Denene Millner in Atlanta created a blog,, for other African-American moms and also followed the school hair controversies. She went natural nearly 14 years ago for the sake of her daughters, now 11 and 14.

“I didn’t want them to grow up with the same idea that I had when I was little, that there was something wrong with the way that my hair grew out of my head,” said Millner, 45. “It’s something that we’ve grappled with for a very, very long time. There’s a whole lot of assumptions made about you that may not necessarily be true: that you’re political, that you’re Afro-centric, that you might be vegetarian, that you’re kind of a hipster.”

She said watching Tiana sob on camera “about these grown-ups, black folks, who are supposed to not just educate her but show her how to love herself, it tore my heart to shreds.”

(Photo: AP)

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7 thoughts on “Schools Criticized For Bans on Dreadlocks, Afros

  1. Wonderful site. A lot of helpful info here. I’m sending it to several buddies ans
    also sharing in delicious. And of course, thank you in your sweat!

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  3. Dr MLK Jr would roll over in his grave to see how backwards the ‘progress’ of the Afr-Amer community has gone. Just knowing that God loves wonderous variety should stop the madness,(Acts 17:26, Acts 10:34) but since most people refuse to accept Bible Study even when it’s offered free of charge in their homes, think on this: In the 60s and 70s people of all ethnic groups went natural with their hair. Later people of all ethnic groups got perms/relaxers/coloring/bleaching. Now wigs and weaves are out of control. Not only because Afr-Ams are going into extreme debt or stealing food from their children’s mouths to pay for these weaves, but also because the texture of hair that they are choosing are far from their natural texture. Not to mention how unhealthy it is, ripping out their natural hair. And by the way, some of these wigs and weaves are unsanitary too because people aren’t washing them frequently enough. People are so surprised that there is discrimination by Afr-Ams against other Afr-Ams, but that’s just another common hang-over from the conditioning received from Slavery, Jim-Crow and the un-written Caste system that exists in all ethic groups. (i.e. light skin/dark skin; blond hair/brunette hair; etc)

  4. “Tiana’s father, barber student Terrance Parker, said he and his wife chose not to change her style and moved the straight-A student to a different public school, where she now happily sings songs about her hair with friends.“

    They now sing: YMCA by the Village People and are happy; fin.

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