A teenager enrolled at a private high school in Florida was reportedly told by the school’s assistant principal that her natural hair was “inappropriate” for school.
According to WCTV, 17-year-old Jenesis Johnson was called to the assistant principal’s office after a teacher began questioning the teen about her hair, which she’s worn in an afro for months.
The high school junior is presently enrolled in North Florida Christian School, a private school. She told WCTV that the administrator “said that my hair needs to be fixed, it was not neat and needs to be put in a style.” But as Jenesis points out, “My hair is fixed.” In fact, she’s been wearing an afro on and off since the seventh grade, and never had an issue until now.
The assistant principal reportedly pointed to the school’s extensive handbook, which prohibits “faddish or extreme hairstyles. If hair is dyed, it must be a natural color. No permanent ornamentation may be worn. Hair should be neat and clean at all times. The administration will make the decision on any questionable styles.”
The comments echo a 2016 study that reinforced what many black women have always known to be true: that some people hold a bias against their natural hair. The study stated that “a majority of people, regardless of race and gender, hold some bias towards women of color based on their hair.”
What’s more, Jensesis’s mother told WCTV that her daughter was given the option to finish the school year, but would need to change her hair before the start of the fall semester if she wanted to continue attending North Florida Christian.
Private schools often have different dress codes and rules of conduct than public schools, but the bias isn’t limited to private institutions; last week, students at a Massachusetts charter school were reportedly singled out for wearing their hair in braids with extensions.
The Boston Globe reports that the state Attorney General has since directed the school to stop targeting black and biracial students with dress codes that restricted braids, extensions, and afros. “These styles are not simply fashion choices or trends, but, in addition to occurring naturally in many cases, can be important expressions of racial culture, heritage, and identity,” the Attorney General’s letter explained.
Credit: Teen Vogue