Apparently, Black girls can't wear locs, braids, and now afro puffs, to school without being targeted. A Texas elementary school has ignited a racial firestorm by telling an unnamed nine-year-old girl that her afro puffs are "unacceptable."
Madonna Lopez, an assistant principal at Tarver Elementary School in Temple, Texas, allegedly forced the third grader to leave a physical education class and call home because her afro puffs violated the school's dress code, according to Marian Reed, the child's mother. The student was later sent home.
Tarver Elementary School is part of the Belton Independent School District, which follows a strict dress code that prohibits "any clothing, hairstyle, or jewelry that could be interpreted as indecent or disruptive to the educational process." The dress code forbids students from wearing "extreme hairstyles" including mohawks, faux-hawks, and design cuts. However, afro puffs don't fit in any of these categories, as Reed explained in a viral Facebook post.
When Lopez called, Reed said that she "explained to her that my daughter's hair is natural, not shaven, and in six afro puffs because her hair doesn't lay flat."
Reed said on Facebook that she doesn't believe the school intended to target her daughter, but they unintentionally made the nine-year-old self-conscious about her appearance.
"I don't believe that it was intended to be racial," Reed, who is a professional bodybuilder, told KCEN. "But I think the district as a whole may need some cultural diversity training."
She also said her daughter cried and thought no one would be her friend since her hair "wasn't as pretty as the assistant principal's."
"And, as a parent, that's heartbreaking because that's just what God naturally gave her," Reed told KCEN.
The school, however, is denying that they discriminated against the student. Charla Trejo, the executive director of campus leadership for the Belton Independent School District, told Yahoo Beauty that they sent the third grader home to maintain "consistency," since other students have experienced similar consequences for violating the dress code.
"Disciplining a child for a dress code violation is not the goal or typically what happens. It's to resolve the issue so that the dress code is in compliance," Trejo said. "We work very hard to resolve issues so that the education of the child is not interrupted."
That didn't happen here, which is why Reed wants the entire school district to agree to racial sensitivity training.
The school district disagrees, however.
"Do we need training? We are always willing to train and to learn and do things," Trejo told KCEN. "However, this particular situation was about consistency. It was about making sure we have the same expectations for everyone."
The issue here, however, is not about upholding a dress code policy. The issue is seeing a Black child's natural hair as a violation — or a threat — to school norms. This child is wearing a traditional Black girl style. The afro puffs are combed and styled, so perceiving them as unkempt is, in itself, the problem.
This isn't just happening in Texas. It's also happening in Florida, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and a number of other states. Targeting Black children for wearing their hair naturally is racist. It also tells Black children their natural beauty isn't good enough to garner respect. It has got to stop. Reed agrees.
"MY DAUGHTER'S BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY WAY!!!!" Reed wrote on Facebook.
It sure is — and it's time for schools to recognize that instead of punishing students for it.
Read this passionate mother's full Facebook post below:
Cover Image: The Today Show/Marian Reed