Catholic School That Suspended Student Over Braids Reverses Decision Following Backlash
The Santa Ana catholic school claimed the mixed-race sophomore's hair violated the "dress code"
California Catholic school, Mater Dei High School, suspended a mixed-race student for violating the “dress code” on Wednesday but removed the penalty after online backlash.
Melissa Harden, the mother of a high school sophomore, said her son was given an in-school suspension for “arguing and insubordination” after he pushed back on the school’s demand for him to cut his braids. He was out of school for three days because of the suspension.
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Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, a city with less than 1.2% Black residents and less than 1.9% described as being of “two or more races” posted it's hair policy online and included images of hairstyles which are not allowed in the school. Five out of eight of these pictures seem to feature a student of color.
“My son has the right to not cut his hair. He has beautiful hair,” Harden said.
The decision to suspend the sophomore highlights a continuing issue regarding Black hair and its acceptability in professional spaces. California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed into law, SB 188 The CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act which extended protections under the FHEA and California Education Code to include “protective styles” including braids, locks and twists in an effort to crack down on bias toward Black hairstyles. The act is currently limited to covering workplace environments and public schools and does not cover private education, so it would not cover Harden's case.
Michael Inzunza, assistant principal for student safety and discipline, reminded the sophomore of the rule that boys’ hair cannot be longer than mid-ear on the sides, touch their shirt collars, nor fall past their eyebrows in the front and ordered him to cut it. When the student refused, he was suspended.
San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Harden stated this was not the first time that her son had been reprimanded for violating the dress code and said “It is discrimination. They discriminated against my son, and they harassed my son.”
San Diego mayoral candidate Tasha Williamson has been very vocal in support of the Harden family and posted a message on Friday directed at the school, community and Catholic Diocese of San Diego that oversees the private school. In her post she highlights the hypocrisy of the discrimination by stating that the Catholic religion believes in Jesus Christ “who adorned 'locs' on his head”