Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

School bans on dreadlocks and afros draw criticism

Schools' long-standing bans on dreadlocks and afros have drawn sharp criticism from African-American families who say that such policies reinforce racial stigmas and double standards.

Terrance Parker, (l.), poses with wife Miranda Parker, and their daughter Tiana, 7, in front of Deborah Brown Community School in Tulsa, Okla., Sept. 8. The school has changed its dress code after inciting criticism for telling a Tiana that her dreadlocks violated the school's policy.

AP Photo/Tulsa World, Cory Young

About these ads

"Why are you so sad?" a TV reporter asked the little girl with a bright pink bow in her hair.

"Because they didn't like my dreads," she sobbed, wiping her tears. "I think that they should let me have my dreads."

With those words, second-grader Tiana Parker of Tulsa, Oklahoma, found herself, at age 7, at the center of decades of debate over standards of black beauty, cultural pride, and freedom of expression.

It was no isolated incident at the predominantly black Deborah Brown Community School, which in the face of outrage in late August apologized and rescinded language banning dreadlocks, Afros, mohawks, and other "faddish" hairstyles it had called unacceptable and potential health hazards.

A few weeks earlier, another charter school, the Horizon Science Academy in Lorain, Ohio, sent a draft policy home to parents that proposed a ban on "Afro-puffs and small twisted braids." It, too, quickly apologized and withdrew the wording.

But at historically black Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, the dean of the business school has defended and left in place a 12-year-old prohibition on dreadlocks and cornrows for male students in a leadership seminar for MBA candidates, saying the look is not businesslike.

Tiana's father, barber student Terrance Parker, said he and his wife chose not to change her style and moved the straight-A student to a different public school, where she now happily sings songs about her hair with friends.


Page 1 of 4

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.