Oklahoma Students Who Fought Back After Being Told They Couldn't Wear Headwraps Fighting For Change In Dress Code
The amended policy is scheduled to go into effect on December 9.
After months of student protests, an Oklahoma school district is changing its dress code after being called out for its "culturally insensitive headwear policy," according to The Hill.
The amended policy, which is scheduled to go into effect on December 9, didn't come without a fight for students at Byng High School, according to high schooler Delanie Seals.
Seals said she was stopped by her principal in February 2018 after wearing an African headwrap to school.
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The principal reportedly asked her, "What is that thing on your head?"
Classmates Avaunt Brown and Is'Abella Miller faced similar issues at the school after being told to remove their headwraps.
Instead of removing her headwrap, which the principal said resembled a hat, Seals rejected, ensuing in a year-long protest.
"I told him no, that it's a part of my culture," Seals said. “I then explained the history behind it. He googled pictures of women in headwraps and told me he didn’t understand the point of it. He told me I can wear it for that day, but I continued to wear it even after that discussion. His reaction was very rude and sarcastic.”
Seals told Blavity on Monday that the district's policy is "an excuse for modern assimilation of our culture and numerous others masked as 'dress code.'"
After repeatedly being pulled out of class, the students reached an agreement with the school. The students were told they could wear the headwraps if they showed part of their hair.
The agreement was revoked just four months later after the students were told they could only wear the headwraps for religious purposes. Seals and her classmates continued to wear the headwraps and were ultimately punished with in-school detention (ISD), according to KFOR.
“We’re going to keep them on because it’s a part of who we are and where we come from,” Seals told the principal. “We felt like we were unfairly grouped with the students who wrote on the walls and started fights with people. The school’s outlook on us was that we were the delinquent kids who wanted to start trouble. We felt that wearing head wraps that day and getting ISD would help us get the attention of the board members and community supporters. We decided to post about it on Facebook and many people seemed very supportive of our decision.”
In an attempt to bring attention to the issue, the students signed up to speak during a public school board meeting however, they were left off the agenda.
“The board members are just going to say ‘thank you for your time,’” superintendent Todd Crabtree told the high schoolers.
Seals said dress codes in schools often attempt to assimilate Black students and stint their cultural expression.
According to the National Women's Law Center, Black female students in the District of Columbia are punished for their clothes, hair and makeup.
The NWLC reports "Black girls also face adults' stereotyped perceptions that they are more sexually provocative because of their race."
Dress codes throughout schools in the nation continue to perpetuate racial and cultural discrimination for Black students, Blavity reports.
In Chicago, Illinois, an 8-year-old wasn't allowed to take school pictures because she had red braids.
Back in 2018, a Black 12-year-old boy was told not to return to school because his braids violated the school's dress code.
“I feel like at this point, I'm focusing more on fighting for my cultural rights than I am [focusing on] school, and that's sad,” Miller told Changing America. “I know some people are like, ‘well, you have to manage both.’ But that's hard. Fighting for something every single day, trying to get in contact with organizations and people who know what's going on to fight for this. The thing is, I shouldn't have to be fighting for this in the first place. It's definitely a distraction — going to in-school detention, getting pulled out of class just to discuss this over and over when it's still going to be the same thing.”
The students now plan to deliver a legislative proposal addressing dress code policies for all schools in Oklahoma. Seals said their goal is to create statewide change with their proposed legislation.
“Everyone should be able to express themselves ethnically and culturally,” says Miller. “[Wearing an African head wrap] makes me remember where I come from and who I am. And that black is beautiful.”