The plight of a seven-year-old girl who left her Oklahoma charter school because she violated its hairstyle policy drew the attention of MSNBC commentator Melissa Harris-Perry, who joined local parents in criticizing the school.
During her second week of school, Tiana Parker was told by administrators at Deborah Brown Community School that she needed to change her natural, African hairstyle that consisted of miniature dreadlocks tied in a ponytail. Her father, Terrence Parker — a barber — angrily transferred her to another school, and parents of other kids alleged that racism was at work.
The elder Parker pointed out that the policy didn’t constitute racism, however, since most of the people who run the school are in fact black as well.
“I’ve heard people say it’s racist, but it’s definitely not racist because they’re black,” he said in a statement to the Tulsa World. “It’s discrimination.”
The controversy attracted the attention of Harris-Perry, who wrote an open letter to Tiana in celebration of her hair — and in condemnation of the school.
“Your old school might want to revamp its policy, because instead of enforcing a uniform policy for students; it reinforces stereotypes and undermines a student’s sense of self,” wrote Perry.
State legislators who belong to the Oklahoma Black Caucus have called for the state to review Deborah Brown’s charter school license.
Administrators at Langston University — which sponsors Deborah Brown — said the hair policy should be changed, and the school agreed.
Even so, Tiana has no intention of returning to her old school.
“They’re mean,” she said in a statement.
When students and administrators argue over style policies at schools, they aren’t just splitting hairs. Several gingers have been removed from classes for having all-too-red hair. (RELATED: High school ginger wins battle to sit in class with incandescent cherry-red hair) (RELATED: Student, kicked out of school for having red hair, returns to class)