Banned from prom for wearing hair extensions

Two Massachusetts students have been banned from attending their charter school’s prom and have been kicked off their school’s sports teams.

They wore hair extensions.

Deanna and Mya Cook haven been accumulating detentions for violating the school’s dress code, which says hair extensions can be distracting for other students and affect learning.

The students say it singles out African Americans.

Their mother, Colleen Cook, told WBUR she is not going to allow her daughters to serve their detentions.

“Hair doesn’t have anything to do with academia,” Cook told WBUR. “As a matter of fact, if you’re confident in your body and in yourself, and if your hair makes you feel good, you’re going to do better.”

“We got extensions in [our hair] because we wanted to get them braided and that’s what black, African-American people do,” Deanna told the station’s talk show yesterday. “And when we showed up to school the first day we went, it was fine, no one said anything. The second day, [a teacher and the nurse] told us that we had to take them out.”

Eventually, African American students were being called to the office and asked if their hair was real, she says.

Kim Janey, the senior project director of the Massachusetts Advocates for Children, says the real “distraction” is the attention the school is paying to students’ hair.

“That is taking time away from learning and it is discriminatory. The bottom line, it’s discriminatory. I hope that they will change this policy, but even if they do, I’m deeply concerned that you still have a team of educators who believe that the only way black children can learn is if somehow they be something other than who they are …

“I just think that we should be focusing on what is in someone’s head and not what’s on top of their head. … Even if they change the policy, there’s language in that policy that says if your hair grows 2 inches in height off your head, well whose hair does that? Black people, people of color, our hair tends to do that.”

(Video link)

  • John O.

    It never ceases to amaze me how stupid school administrators can be. I wonder if there is at least one teacher on the payroll that is wearing a bad toupee? Or a “Hair Club for Men” client?

    Then they wonder why many of us question excess levy referendums, etc. here in Minnesota. I don’t know how they finance school districts in Massachusetts, but you would have to make a solid pitch to get me to even consider to vote for ANYTHING extra for the school district this charter school is a part of.

  • Guest

    If they have to ask if the hair is real, just how much of a problem learning is it???

    • rosswilliams

      Its not the hair that it the problem, its the idea of it.

      • NG

        Like the idea of a hairy back? That grosses me out a bit.

  • ec99

    I remember high school 50 years ago, when the dean carried around a ruler to measure the hem of girls’ dresses. I thought that micromanaging had ended.

    • I sometimes wonder how much better my life could have been, if my educational focus hadn’t been so disrupted by the girls wearing culottes, which were banned in my school.

      • asiljoy

        I had to google what a ‘culotte’ was. Those look comfy! I want a pair now.

        • Hubba hubba!

        • Jerry

          They’re a type of pastry, right?

          • ec99

            I believe that’s a cruller.

          • Zachary

            I thought that was somebody who slid stones across the ice

          • ec99

            That’s a Cannuck.

      • John

        I can’t figure out if you’re being sarcastic or not. (I also had to google culotte to figure out what you’re talking about.)

        I am pretty sure that the main thing interrupting the focus of most high school boys is the fact that high school girls exist.

        evidence: the grunge scene of the 90’s, everything in the 80’s, most of the 70’s and also whatever kids are wearing today.

        • I also had to google “culotte.” Thanks for teaching me something new! 🙂

      • ec99

        I recall vividly still when Cathy K. showed up to sophomore English class wearing a baby doll. Julius Caesar was forgotten.

      • wjc

        It must be a sign of my age that I did NOT have to Google “culotte” 🙁

      • Al

        I can’t figure out how culottes would possibly be distracting. We live in different times…

        • ec99

          One has to remember that, at the time, they revealed a good deal more leg than what had been traditional.

  • Jeff C.

    My daughter has very short hair. Some of the kids tease her about it, so clearly it is distracting them. I wonder what this school would do to her if she was a student there – make her wear a wig or extensions?

  • Mike Worcester

    I must really live in a bubble as I had no clue hair extensions were limited to one demographic group.

    And what is is about this obsession with kids’ hair by school admins?

    Also noticed this was a charter school. Does that make a difference? I’d think not but I’ve been out of school for a few years now.

    • Kassie

      Hair extension aren’t limited to one group, anyone can get them. But, many, many African American women get them and it is part of their culture.

      • Mike Worcester

        You’ll forgive me, I was being slightly sarcastic in that first statement and it did not come out the way I wanted.

    • DavidG

      Being a charter school matters because they have more leeway than a traditional public school in selecting their student body and imposing conditions on attendance.

  • Zachary

    Ok – I’m going to be ‘that guy’ and ask, “How difficult is it for people to follow the rules?”
    I am assuming that these dress codes are spelled out somewhere, perhaps a student handbook or other document. If the rules say ‘no hair extensions’ (for whatever the reason – I don’t know why that is an issue to begin with) then you, as a student will not have hair extensions. If the rules say ‘no hats’ – don’t wear a hat!

    Follow the rules. If you don’t like them, work with school admins to get the rule changed – until then – don’t break the rules. This applies to any dress code (hats, pants, shorts, shoes, whathaveyou). I would guess that most of these restrictions could be removed following a review – but until then…

    Ok – I’m done yelling at clouds. Get off my lawn.

    • They did seek to “work with the school admins”. The school admins said they weren’t interested. It’s clearly aimed at African American students and at this point they’re using the options they have to change the rules.

      • Zachary

        If the admins weren’t interested in hearing the case – then sure, keep working on it until they do. Have your day in ‘court’, accept any results and move along. It’s just high school.

    • NG

      So, if the girls had just let their hair grow out to that length naturally, instead of using a form of cosmetics to get to that length, it would be fine? Is there a standard length that hair can not exceed? After all, well done extensions should look like natural hair, right? Are there other limits on cosmetics? “No padded bras”, perhaps?

      There is a bit of difference between a hat and hair, which a person could grow given enough time.

      • Zachary

        I don’t care what the policy was about – they knew it existed, and yet they kept violating it. You knew the rule – you broke the rule – you accept the consequences of breaking said rule.

        • And they have. They’re not asking to go to the prom, nor asking to be put back on the sports teams. What they’re doing is putting up a fight to get the rule changed.

          • Zachary

            Does the school have a policy for making changes? Some formal grievance process, Petition, or otherwise?

    • Al

      When it’s a racist rule and breaking it doesn’t harm others, I’d argue none of us have an obligation to follow the rule.

    • Kassie

      It is pointed out in Bob’s post that is also against the rules to have your hair grow two inches in height off your head. My guess is if they removed the extensions, then their natural hair would be two or more inches off their head, violating another rule. The rules are racist. They should stand up to them.

  • AL287

    Would the reaction have been the same had it been a white female student rocking Bo Derek-style braids using hair extensions or even their natural, blond, red or brunette/black hair?

    Calling African-American students in to determine if their hair is “real” is adding insult to injury.

    I think the look is really beautiful no matter what race the woman is who is wearing it and I have seen women of all races styling their hair this way.

    I’m with John O. It makes you want to refrain from voting “Yes” on a tax referendum when administrators focus on what should be a trivial matter instead of giving students a proper and valuable education.

    My son grew his hair down to his shoulders every fall after cross country season was over and then cut it short in the spring for track and field.

    I told myself if that’s the worst thing he ever does, we’re in good shape.

  • lindblomeagles

    Clearly, the school is making more out of the hair extensions than the student body is. This can be easily proven by the number of people who are a) being asked to change their hair; and b) being given detention for not changing their hair. This policy also harkens back to the days of Indian boarding schools when American administrators and teachers punished Indian students for not talking white, dressing white, and acting white. I have a difficult time believing the school can win this “policy” fight in court.

  • Jeff C.