When Head Wraps Become Permitted, So Do Our Voices

Cassandra Calixte, Staff Writer

As of late September 2019, Prospect Hill Academy has prohibited students from wearing head wraps unless it’s part of a religious practice. When it comes to the PHA school community, wearing head wraps has been a very popular and controversial topic. Black girls throughout the school are advocating for the school dress code and policies to allow them to wear head wraps. However, this is not the only instance where black girls are being policed and unnecessarily scrutinized.

According to an NBC News article, “Louisiana Girl Sent Home from School over Braided Hair Extensions,” Kalhan Rosenblatt describes how an eleven-year-old Louisiana girl by the name of Faith Fennidy got sent home for wearing box braids from her private Roman Catholic school. Faith’s brother Steven Evergreen Fennidy spoke out and criticized the anti-black policy by stating, “How do you make a policy without even having a discussion. It’s because you don’t care.”

Additionally, in an NPR article, “When Black Hair Violates The Dress Code,” Kayla Lattimore describes the many accounts where black girls are discriminated against and punished for wearing black hairstyles. Specifically, Lattimore reached out to Dorinda J. Carter Andrews, the assistant dean of equity outreach initiatives at Michigan State University. Andrews “finds it strange that hair would even be part of a dress code. It’s not a choice, but an aspect of one’s body.”

Lastly, in one account at our school, Marielle Felix explains her experience with being punished for wearing a head wrap to school. “The approach of the in-school suspension was just wrong,” Felix said.

Even though Marielle’s headwrap was neatly and professionally styled, she still had to serve a one-day in-school-suspension.

In order to learn more about this head wrap policy, I contacted Christine Douglas, the high school principal. She failed to respond to an email.

There is a clear history of discrimination against black girls in school systems. Even though these stories are references to discrimination against black hairstyles, many black girls at PHA can attest to having a head wrap as a type of hairstyle. Not to mention the fact that many workplaces and other professional spaces concur that they are acceptable.

“It’s funny to see how PHA takes pride in being a diverse school but you are not able to truly be yourself,” Liana Tarte, a current senior, said.

Many Black girls like Liana and Marielle experience the difficulty of being a black girl with coily and kinky natural hair and the extension of how important it is to have a head wrap–especially when it comes to school days after wash day or just having a bad hair day.

Any black girl who wears their natural hair knows the emotional and physical toll it takes to tame our coily and kinky hair, but it seems as though that even at a predominantly black school administrators don’t take that into account.

It’s disappointing to know that a predominantly black school did not utilize the voices of their students to improve or adjust policies that could have the students feeling included when it comes to the look of the school.

As for now the policy still holds, but many still protest by serving in-school-suspension or just by voicing their opinions on the matter to a teacher or an administrator.

Head wraps are not a distraction in the classroom, nor are they a thing that should be ostracized at the expense of a professional appeal that the school tries to convey.