Parents Claim Charter School Crackdown on Braided Hair Extensions Is Racist

Parents at a Massachusetts charter school are claiming school administrators are subjecting their children to double standards for violating the school's dress code with their hairstyles.

Parents of black and biracial students at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden say the school administration's crackdown on braided hair extensions, resulting in detentions and suspensions, is racist.

The parents also said black and biracial students were inspected for hair extensions after returning from spring break.

"It's heart-wrenching. These are my girls," Colleen Cook, a Mystic Valley Charter School parent, said, adding, "They asked us to correct their hair and we said there's nothing wrong with their hair and nothing that needs to be corrected."

Her husband Aaron agreed.

"We really have a problem with this section because we feel it absolutely discriminates against black children," he said, hoping school administrators would sit down with parents to talk about the situation.

In a letter sent to student's homes by the school, interim school director Alexander J. Dan refuted the parents' claims, saying in part, "our Uniform Policy does not prohibit braids. Second, the school unequivocally did not 'march' a group of students to the office.'"

Dan wrote futher that the school's policy is against hair extensions, "which are expensive and could serve as a differentiating factor between students from dissimilar socioeconomic backgrounds, is consistent with out desire to create such an educational environment, one that celebrates all that our students have in common and minimizes material differences and distractions. Any suggestion that is based on anything else is simply wrong."

However, other parents told the Globe white children who dye their hair are not subjected to the same disciplinary actions.

"I see white kids with colored hair and you are not supposed to color your hair, and they walk around like it's nothing," parent Annette Namuddu reportedly said.

Colleen Cook, a white woman who adopted her black daughters, said the school's policy is akin to telling her children that "your black hair is not good enough."

"It is my job as a mother to enrich their black culture, their black experience," she said. "We won't stop."

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