The perception of racism associated with school dress codes continues plague and polarize public schools across the nation. School administrators are responsible to ensure that nothing in their control detracts any student from the opportunity to learn. School dress codes play a pinnacle role in ensuring that educational distractions are minimized. Schools must refrain from a power over decision making process that leads to the perception of racism associated with the school dress code.
A Massachusetts public school appears to have embraced a school dress code deemed as racist. The Mystic Valley Regional Charter School has disciplined several Black and biracial female students for violating the school dress code policy. The policy prohibits extensions, listing them as one example of a hairstyle that could be distracting to other students. The ACLU has responded to the parents concerns by filing a complaint with the state education department.
How could hair extensions provide a need for a school dress code policy?
A hair extension is a method for lengthening one’s hair by incorporating human or synthetic hair. Women and young girls choose to wear hair extensions to:
- Extend the length
- Add color
- Add volume
- Add style
- Easy Usage
Hair extensions are designed to help beautify the person. Schools have a different perspective which could be deemed a racist school dress code policy. The reason that the school dress code policy could be deemed as racist is because White female students have an opportunity to wear their hair at any length and various colors. The styles and lengths for hair are numerous. This has resulted in disproportionate discipline for Black female students.
According to Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, males are suspended in greater numbers than females overall, race and ethnicity turn out to be substantial risk factors for Black girls when they are compared to their White counterparts. Data released by the Department of Education for the 2011–2012 school year reveal that while Black males were suspended more than three times as often as their White counterparts, Black girls were suspended six times as often as their White counterparts. Only 2 percent of White females were subjected to exclusionary suspensions in comparison to 12 percent of Black girls.
According to Vernellia R. Randall, professor Emeriti of Law for the University of Dayton , schools dress codes that prohibit afros, afro puffs, dreadlocks, small twisted braids, and other culturally Black styles implies that the Black body is unacceptable, unruly, and unprofessional. These type of school dress code policies are damaging to the psyche of Black children and imply that the traits of Blacks are bad the traits of Whites are good.
The response from Randall is historical. The army set the stage for labeling Blacks as inferior by using the Alpha and Beta test that contained a number of visual information processing tasks that Blacks are not proficient at. American societal beliefs that posit Blacks as inferior to European Americans results in Blacks developing psycho-behavioral modalities such as self-hatred, over-identification with those in power, anxiety, hostility, aggression, and a general inadequate development of the motivational, cognitive, and intellectual skills necessary to survive American society.
This has caused Black parents to prepare and protect their children. Black parents prepare their children to live in a dual cultural world that involves helping them to develop skills for adult roles such as wage earners and parenthood in addition to negotiating a dominant society that has different cultural values and judges people by their skin color or ethnic background. Blacks who live in an urban society and a society that dislikes them for the color of their skin ensure they do not become victims by approaching people with caution, wariness, and a sense of distrust.
Schools can eliminate this perception that utilizes a team building process by including parental input. The will not only eliminate the perception of racism but it will also eliminate the power over nature that normally leads to unintended racist policies associated with school dress codes.
All the best,
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
The Raccelerate Phenomenon
Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education
“Dr. Campbell did his part and now all we have to do is run with it.”
~ Tom Coleman ~
Woodstown-Pilesgrove Public Schools Superintendent of Schools
“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.
~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor
“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”
~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President