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Two African American Students Punished by School for Wearing Box Braids

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A charter school in Massachusetts is catching heat after reprimanding two African American students for wearing braids. Parents of the students who suffered from the policy are claiming the latest crackdown is racist and is targeted specifically to African American students.

According The Boston Globe, Colleen Cook states her twin 15-year-old daughters, Deanna and Mya, have served multiple detentions and could be suspended from coming to school with box braids. The girls, who attend the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, have reportedly gone against the school’s policy that prohibits hair extensions, hair coloring, makeup, nail polish, and tattoos. Cook, the adoptive mother of the girls, says the school is being insensitive to the diversity in its school.

“They teach them at a very high academic level and I appreciate that, and that’s why they go to the school,” Cook said to The Boston Globe. “But, unfortunately, they don’t have any sensitivity to diversity at all.”

Mystic Valley Regional Charter School issued a statement, obtained by Boston News 25,  defending its actions. It states the school serves a diverse population of students who go on to attend top colleges and universities.

The full statement reads:

“The Mystic Valley Regional Charter School serves a diverse student population from surrounding communities that include Everett, Medford and Malden, among other cities. The school consistently ranks among the top schools in Massachusetts in MCAS testing, SAT testing and college admissions. We send students from all walks of life, including those of color and those from limited means, to the best colleges and universities in the nation. One important reason for our students’ success is that we purposefully promote equity by focusing on what unites our students and reducing visible gaps between those of different means. Our policies, including those governing student appearance and attire, foster a culture that emphasizes education rather than style, fashion or materialism. Our policy on hair extensions, which tend to be very expensive, is consistent with, and a part of, the educational environment that we believe is so important to our students’ success.” – Alexander J. Dan, Interim School Director, Mystic Valley Regional Charter School

Cook states that her daughters have worn braids before and never heard any objections from the school. However, in late April, the administration cracked down after students returned from spring break. She describes the moment her daughters had their hair inspected by the administration, saying, “They marched black and biracial children down the hall.”

According to The Boston Globe, Deanna and Mya refused to remove their braids and were forced to serve detention an hour before school started each day and an hour after school. The girls were also kicked out of after-school activities, including sports and the prom. The punishment has been particularly tough on Deanna, who runs track on the school’s team.

Along with Cook, two other mothers have come forward and said their black or biracial children have been reprimanded or questioned over their hair, which parents describe to be an expression of their culture. Per The Boston Globe, more than 40% of the students who attend the school are people of color, including 17% who are African American, according to the latest annual ranking from U.S. News & World Report.

Annette Namuddu states that her daughter, Lauren Kayondo, had also been affected by the policy not long before Cook’s daughters. She says her daughter was subjected to suspension after she refused to remove her braids. “It’s discrimination,” Namuddu continued. “I see white kids with colored hair and you are not supposed to color your hair, and they walk around like it’s nothing.” Namuddu also described an evening her daughter came home from school crying because she feels the school is picking on the African American students.

Kathy Granderson, mother of 14-year-old Jaden, says her daughter was one of the 20 girls taken to the office and was asked if they have “fake” hair. Granderson states about half of the girls received detention, except her daughter, who is biracial, did not.

Cook has contacted the NAACP and the state’s Anti-Defamation League to seek help for the situation at hand.

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