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ACLU files complaint over charter school's hairstyle policy

17 May 2017

In a story May 12 about a MA school's dress policy, The Associated Press reported erroneously in the headlines and in the story that Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden bans the wearing of braids or braids with hair extensions.

Reports came out last week that black students at the school-including twin 15-year-old sisters Deanna and Mya Scott-were punished for wearing braids with hair extensions.

Deanna Cook said hair extensions and braids are integral to African American culture.

Colleen Cook, one of the mothers spoken to in the story whose twin daughters, Deanna and Mya, attend the school says that both of them have received multiple detentions and could face suspension for their braids.

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"All the little black children were marched down for a hair inspection, whether they had braids or not, and asked, 'Are those extensions, are your braids real or not?'" Colleen Cook said.

At the center of the controversy are Mya and Deanna Cook, two twin sophomores at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. The charter school, the letter said, "promotes equity" with dress code policies that reduce "visible gaps between those of different means".

Another mother at the school, Annette Namuddu, told the Globe that her daughter was assigned a detention for wearing braids to school.

"It really affects them to their core and tells them, 'You're not good enough, you need to change, '" she said.

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The school does ban hair extensions, which tend to be "very expensive", a statement last week on behalf of Mystic Valley Interim Director Alex Dan said. Even if they change the policy, there's language in that policy that says if your hair grows 2 inches in height off your head, well whose hair does that?

Cook declined to disclose how much the family paid for the professional braiding, but said the actual bag of artificial hair was only five dollars. The Boston Globe shares that the Anti-Defamation League will meet with the school's officials this week. "The fact that it's in the handbook does not make it a non-discriminatory policy".

The school contends that the ban on hair extensions was meant to "foster a culture that emphasizes education, rather than style, fashion or materialism".

The Massachusetts Charter Public School Association also criticized the school, calling the policy "discriminatory". "All of these students may have neat appearances that are ethnically, religiously, and culturally appropriate and not disruptive of the educational mission of the school".

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ACLU files complaint over charter school's hairstyle policy