Adrienne Redman l Guest Writer
Earlier this month, Tiffany Brown received a note from her son’s Waco elementary school mandating that the child’s hair be cut in compliance with school policy. Since then, she has taken to Twitter and Facebook to protest and spread awareness about what she says are “racist and gendered rules.”
According to Brown’s Twitter page, the first grader at Spring Valley Elementary was sent home with a note detailing a violation to Midway Independent School District’s code of conduct, specifically the length of his dreadlocks. The policy, as stated in the MISD Student handbook, requires that the hair of male students “must not touch the eyebrows in the front, be lower than the bottom of the ear on the sides or collar in the back.”
Following complaints made by Brown on various social media platforms, MISD released a statement explaining that the district’s dress and grooming standards have been in place for decades and are nothing new.
“Since the code applies to all students, it is not discriminatory in intent or by legal standards. Students are expected to adhere to the current dress code, which was acknowledged by every student’s guardian at registration,” a spokesperson from MISD’s Public Information Office said.
However, Brown stated that her son’s dreadlocks are a source of comfort for him, and that his hair length does not affect his ability to learn.
“I signed up for a great education, for my children. I won’t conform to racist policies,” Brown said in a Tweet.
Brown has used the hashtag #NotMyHair in her posts regarding the situation.
However, the district stated that the implementation of this policy is not based on the boy’s style of hair, as claimed in Brown’s tweets.
“There’s nothing about the style of hair in our dress code. It’s only length,” the district spokesperson said.
Many Baylor students in the School of Education spend time student teaching at various Waco schools, and several currently teach at Spring Valley. However, this how this event has impacted the daily activities led by student teachers is unclear.
As per school policy, the student was assigned In School Suspension (ISS) on Jan. 14 and remains suspended as of today. MISD’s Student Handbook states that a student in violation of the dress and grooming code is subject to ISS until the problem is corrected.
This event follows a December incident in which a New Jersey high school wrestler was forced to cut off his dreadlocks before competing in a match. The referee refused to allow 16-year-old Andrew Johnson to compete without cutting his hair, and a viral video from the event shows the teenager standing in his wrestling uniform while his dread locks are removed. The school board later stated that the district would no longer participate in any match with the referee in question officiating.
It is unclear how long the Spring Valley first grader will remain in ISS, but it appears Brown is standing her ground, as she writes on her Facebook wall, “Stand up for something or fall for anything. I stand with and for my son.”
Correction: Jan. 18, 2018
An earlier version of this story attributed the Midway Independent School District statement to a spokesperson in the department. The statement was issued on behalf of the district and was not a quote from an individual.