Video of an 11-year-old Black girl leaving a Louisiana Catholic school after officials complained about her hair has sparked outrage, prompting social media users to condemn school officials and rally behind the middle schooler.
Faith Fennidy left the classroom at Christ the King Middle School, in Terrytown, in tears on Monday after school officials told her that her hairstyle, short, neat braids, violated school policy. Footage of the incident showed the sixth-grader sobbing uncontrollably as she packed her belongings and left the building.
“They told her not to come back,” the family’s lawyer, Inem O’Boyle, told the New York Times of school officials. O’Boyle said that, earlier in the month on the first day of school (Aug. 9), officials told Faith that her hairstyle did not align with school policy. So, the family changed it, spending a “considerable amount of money in the process.”
On Monday, they said the girl’s hair was still unacceptable. Alongside the Facebook video, by Steven Fennidy, who identified himself as Faith’s brother, Steven detailed the incident, writing that his sister had been wearing similar braids to the school for the last two years.
“Over the summer the school has sneakily added in a policy, that no extensions, clip-ins or weaves are allowed … Extensions make the hair easier to maintain. It allows my sister to have access to the swimming pool without having to get her hair Re-done every night,” Steven wrote in the post.
“How do you make a policy without even having a discussion. It’s because you don’t care and it’s just one more barrier to entry for black people. This decision is going to affect black children more than white children …This has all just been very upsetting.”
In the video, a man is seen motioning to the crying girl and saying, “Look at my daughter.”
“There’s nothing wrong with her hair,” the man is heard saying. Soon, a woman is heard chiming in, “I don’t want this to happen.”
The school’s current parent-student handbook features several restrictions in a section titled “hair styles.” One rule states, “Only the student’s natural hair is permitted. Extensions, wigs, hair pieces of any kind are not allowed.” The rule is not found in the school’s 2016-2017 parent-student handbook.
Houston told ABC News that Houston admitted that Faith had her hair re-done after school officials complained that it did not comply with policy, but Houston said the current hairstyle was not acceptable either.
In a statement to PEOPLE, Archdiocese of New Orleans Superintendent RaeNell Billiot Houston said that all parents had been made aware of the new policy.
“As relates to the student in question, the school offered the student’s family an opportunity to comply with the uniform and dress policy and the family chose to withdraw the student; the student was not suspended or expelled,” Houston said in the statement. “We remain committed to being a welcoming school community that celebrates our unity and diversity.”
The incident sparked outrage online, with many social media users weighing in on the situation they called racist discrimination.
“WHEN BEING BLACK VIOLATES THE DRESS CODE: The case of 11-yr-old #FaithFennidy and every black person who has been told their hair is “unprofessional” or against “policy.”#commentary,” Demetria Obilor tweeted.
Writer Shaun King shared the video in a tweet, writing: “Christ The King Middle School in Gretna, Louisiana expelled this beautiful young Black girl saying that her hair style was ‘unnatural.’ She was humiliated and removed from the school over it. Let’s be clear – this is Christianity as White Supremacy.”
Now, Steven tells PEOPLE that the family is taking legal action against the school. Faith’s mother, Montrelle Fennidy, told NOLA.com that Faith is no longer a student at the school and the family is looking for a new place to send the girl.
The incident comes just days after 6-year-old C.J. Stanley was sent home from A Book’s Christian Academy in Apopka, Florida, on the first day of school for wearing dreadlocks, according to the Orlando Sentinel.