When parents and students in Louisville, Kentucky, got wind of Butler Traditional High School’s dress code policies forbidding certain hairstyles, they spoke up and spoke out.
The policy – which outlawed cornrows, twists and dreadlocks, among other styles – was first revealed to parents and students on a pink handout at registration in late July.
“Hair styles that are extreme, distracting, or attention-getting will not be permitted,” the flyer read. “No dreadlocks, cornrolls (sic), twists, mohawks, no jewelry will be worn in the hair. No braids will be allowed on males.”
“Those students who come to school in violation of the dress code will not be allowed to attend class or circulate through the school until their attire is corrected,” the flyer continued. “We feel that a student’s academic success is directly correlated to appropriate attire and appearance.”
Butler Traditional High School students and parents – including State Representative elect Attica Scott – quickly took to social media to express their disdain for the policy, many calling it “cultural appropriation.”
“My intelligent, straight-A, 4.0 daughter can’t wear her natural hair in braids to school?” remarked one mom.
Another dad shared photos of his JCPS students – all with hairstyles that would be outlawed by the new policy.
Scott’s daughter Ashnti – a sophomore who describes herself as having a “big Afro” – told Yahoo Beauty that she was offended when she first noticed the policy.
“It said that your hair must be ‘neat and clean,’ which implies that these styles are not,” she explained. “I was surprised that the wording was so blatant.”
“I’m a 4.0 student, I get straight A’s,” sophomore
told WKLY-32. “So my grades and everything that contributes to your test scores and your rankings, I feel like they’re not even caring about me.”
Dr. Kaila Adia Story, Associate Professor of Women’s & Gender Studies and Pan African Studies at the University of Louisville, called the policy “racist,” “gender biased,” and “femme-phobic.”
“To imply that ‘twists, cornrows, Afros and locs’ are ‘distracting, attention-seeking, and the like,’ is to single out police, and/or punish students of African descent who wish to express their politics, ancestry, and personal style through the adornment and/or styling of their hair in its natural state,” she wrote.
The Jefferson County Public Schools responded that the controversial rules were those of Butler Traditional High School alone – having been approved by a group of teachers, parents and administrators tasked with managing specific school decisions called the School-Based Decision Making Council (SDMC).
Last Friday – days after the controversy broke – school representatives quickly said they were suspending the policy. Though the gathered group of students and parents were outraged that they were unable to address the SDMC and school board directly then, they will have an opportunity to do so on Thursday.
That’s when Butler’s SDMC will propose it’s updated dress code policy. According to the Courier-Journal, the new policy reads as follows:
• Hair must be well-groomed, well-kept and at a reasonable length; reasonable length for males means hair no longer than three inches and must be above the collar, the ears and the eyebrows.
• Both males and females must have a natural hair color. No unnatural hair colors (e.g. pink, orange, green, purple, blue, etc.). No severe contrasts.
• Hair must be free from designs, names or lines cut into the hair. One straight line is permissible to be cut into the hair for a part.
• Females only may wear headbands. (The headbands) must be worn in the hair, not across the forehead.
• Bandanas are not allowed.
Other schools in Jefferson County have asked their SBDMs to reevaluate their dress code policies “through the lens of embracing diversity,” JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens told the Courier-Journal.