Are Black Students Being Targeted Because Of Their Hair?


Jaylon Sewell is a good kid. Just 16 years old, he’s an active leader in his local church, a good student, and manager for the football team at Neville High School in Monroe, Louisiana. Suddenly, he’s found himself in a deeply unfamiliar place after deciding to live a little and dye the top of his hair blonde in an homage to Odell Beckham Jr – the standout wide receiver for the New York Giants.

According to a formal complaint filed by his family with the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education, Jaylon and over 20 other Black students at Neville High School, have been repeatedly targeted and harassed by school administrators for their hairstyles – including the Beckham style, other colored styles, braids, dreads, and even for hair deemed “ too nappy” by administrators.

This is not an anomaly. All over the country, young Black boys and girls are being told to change their hair or face suspension.

Heaven Wiggins, an honors student in AP courses at Lithia Springs High School outside of Atlanta, was placed in in-school suspension because of the color of her hair – a deep burgundy color that my own wife has in her hair right now. It’s a conservative style done by Black girls and women across the country.

A high school in Louisville, Kentucky banned virtually all natural black hairstyles and began threatening to suspend Black students with dreads, braids, and twists – which made up a significant percentage of the styles young black girls had at the school. All four of my daughters currently have the very styles that were being targeted at this school.

So, as you could imagine, it infuriated Jaylon’s mother, Bonnie Kirk, when she looked at her phone after a long day at work and saw that she missed a slew of calls from her son. It was not like him to call during the school day and she was immediately alarmed. From the beginning of the school day, through lunch, until the end of the day, he had called but been unable to reach her.

During morning announcements, Jaylon was pulled from class alongside twenty of his classmates, each of them Black, and told that they would not be able to attend class until they either cut their hair or dyed it back to its natural color.

For Jaylon and others, it was like an outer body experience. The hairstyles that they had were seen as normal, hardly radical, in their own community. Even the style recently popularized by Beckham has been around for decades, but the Dean of Students, according to Jaylon, told them they “looked like thugs” and asked them if they were in gangs.

Students, that were not able to reach their parents were not allowed to go home, but could not attend class, and were even denied lunch. They weren’t even allowed to go to a private room, but were forced to sit in the public commons area outside of the school offices for the entire day.

When Jaylon’s mother and other family members came to the school the next day, they were told again by the school staff that Jaylon would not be able to attend any classes until he cut his hair off or dyed it back to its natural color.

Determined that her son would not miss a second day of classes, his mother sent him on to class anyway – only for her to receive new phone calls that he was being pulled out of his classes, yet again, because of his hairstyle. Demanding an explanation, Jaylon’s mother was told by the Dean of Students that his hair color was causing a disruption in school.

Under pressure from Jaylon’s mother, the superintendent finally instructed the school to allow him to attend classes. However, both Jaylon and his mother have said that this entire school year has been Hell on earth, with constant harassment from the Dean of Students even after Jaylon was allowed to return.

This entire ordeal is absolutely ridiculous. I’ve said it before in other cases, but what is being targeted here is Black culture itself. This is akin to Native Americans being told to cut their hair and change their names to look and sound more like Europeans. Jaylon Sewell was not a disruption to the educational process of his school. These children, and their families, have enough to worry about without having to fight for the very right for their children to attend class or have lunch.


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20 thoughts on “Are Black Students Being Targeted Because Of Their Hair?

  1. white folks seem to be having Issues with people of color’s hair styles these days!!!!

    Yet and still their asses will attempt to copy our damn hair styles–Bo Derek in those cornrows in the movie 10!!!!!!!

    I love my long luxurious Locks and will never cut them off–I don’t care who likes them or not-IT IS MY NATURAL HAIR!!!!!!!!!!!

    One’s hair does not define who that person IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • No. There’s not enough natural black hair out there and it is NOT white people’s fault. They don’t care. In fact, black people get away with weird, punk rock hairstyles much more than white people, even in professional jobs, while white people with blue hair, mohawks or braids usually work at coffee shops and still are considered weird. Also, braiding is not only for black people, that is stupid. people should have their hair how they want it, but especially black people can start rocking afros much more, because I hardly ever see them. You want natural, do a foot long fro.

  2. While I don’t believe it’s something the young man should be expelled for, it sure is ugly. If my son came home with his damn hair bleached blond, he’d be going to school bald the next day.

    • Charity Dell on said:

      That’s even WORSE! It does not make sense for African-American school administrators
      to persecute African-American students for natural hairstyles! Students with natural hair
      styles are not disrupting learning or “distracting” anyone from learning. Exemplary students who
      are like this young man should be praised and encouraged for doing well in school, not
      punished for dying their hair blonde–something MOST white women–and many non-white
      women–are “guilty” of doing! It’s just color-lightened HAIR–not DRUGS or CRIME!

  3. bottom line, no state school department has a mandated uniform policy. Schools can request it, but if it is not state mandated, it is discretionary to abide. Hair has nothing to do with performance, punk, afro, Mohawk or locs..
    Grown ups get a grip and stop abusing your authority. Worry about your test scores being skewed because you kicked the children out with decent to high GPAs.

    • Charity Dell on said:

      WHY should a student be expelled for pink hair? It’s just a fad and it’s just haircolor.
      Schools should be expelling VIOLENT students and SOCIOPATHIC students who are
      guilty of violent crimes, violent actions and hate-filled, racist, abusive speech. Kids who
      are DANGEROUS to themselves and others–who threaten with weapons, who create
      terroristic messages AGAINST students and staff–are the students should be expelled!
      Many female staff members routinely dye their gray hair another color, or frost, tip,
      streak and/or highlight their hair in a color other than their birthcolor. What’s the difference
      between dyeing hair peacock blue or dyeing hair honey brown? It’s ALL just hair dye!
      I’m more worried about kids getting an education and learning subject CONTENT,
      so they can go on to college/university and prepare for a profession. Rainbow-colored
      hair does not stop you from learning pre-calculus or Spanish or American history.

      • No one was punk rock in the 60s, so things change with the times. People have to battle to be free constantly, it’s not always a race issue.

  4. Charity Dell on said:

    This is clearly discriinatory behavior, punishing students for having African hair!

    1.Do schools punish white students when they dye their hair blonde?
    2. Are white students punished for having streaks, cellophanes or highlights that are various colors of the rainbow?
    3. Are white students punished when they get perms that alter their hair texture?

    The Black parents should get an ACLU class-action LAWSUIT against the school

    • She was not a student, however, when a young white woman showed up at our office for an internship, with a purple mohawk, baby girl was sent packing with quickness!

      • Kind of lame, but it’s been an uptight world in which we’ve been told we are inherently not ok for many reasons, and we’ve been taught to hate others for being different. If she cut and dyed her hair, yes she could get the job, probably. Sometimes just being black is enough to be sent packing for some lame bosses, hopefully more in the past. Once a guy with face tattoos said he couldn’t get hired. I thought he was crazy for complaining. I thought everyone would get it, and that’s why he had a face tattoo, to be different Maybe one day no one will question anything at all and the guy with the face tattoo gets the first job he asks for. I sure as heck don’t want to worry so much for not being good enough. For me it was often my looks or my clothes that made me feel not good enough, and not much I could do about that, but I still needed to work!

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