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JLeslie's avatar

What is your opinion about this Catholic School in Toledo regarding a black students hair style?

Asked by JLeslie (46155 points ) August 24th, 2011

Here is the article.

Basically a student is being told she must change her hairstyle to attend the school, and people are arguing it is a specific affront against black students.

I’ll hold my thoughts for later, I want to hear the collective first.

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62 Answers

john65pennington's avatar

I read the article and a thought just hit me…....where were these schools, when Afro hairstyles were the fad? I see nothing wrong with any hairstyle, as long as it’s kept clean and neat.

tom_g's avatar

Catholic school? They’re probably doing this kid a favor by not allowing her to attend.

In all seriousness, isn’t this the type of thing people support because it’s a private school and they can do whatever they want?

john65pennington's avatar

When I was in high school, most of the male students dyed their hair yellow. Not one word was said to us, concerning our hair.

I see students hair dyed all sorts of colors today? I wonder if they are facing the same situation as the students with the sisterlocks?

tedd's avatar

Public schools are not allowed to kick people out unless they are disruptive (which this hair would not qualify for).

However, it is a Private school (In fact I’m familiar with it, I grew up in Toledo and had friends at Central Catholic). So long as the rule does not decide based on things like race or gender, the private school can kick you out for pretty much anything they want. Just judging from my knowledge of Central Catholic, and the type of school it is, this doesn’t really shock me that much. And trust me, there are no male students with “dyed yellow hair” there, they would be gone in a heart beat.

JLeslie's avatar

@john65pennington Yes they are. In the article is states students can not dye their hair unnatural colors.

marinelife's avatar

I think it sucks.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I think as it was already stated in the rules or code or whatever, that it is what it is. Private school, private rules. If I was on the board I would personally try to change a few of those, but whether it’s “just” or not, the student is not being deprived of an education, just an education at that school. Choices had to be made whether they liked it or not. I’d be a lot more outraged if she wasn’t allowed to be female and/or African American regarding her eligibility.

JLeslie's avatar

I had to look up what it meant, sisterlocks. It seems it takes time for this hairstyle. Does anyone know if that is the case?

JLeslie's avatar

@marinelife Do you think there should be no restrictions on hair styles at all?

marinelife's avatar

@JLeslie Some are OK such as no cutting gang symbols into your head.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

The article states that this rule went into effect sometime this year. I wonder if all existing students and their parents were notified of the change.

It seems like a silly rule, but as others have pointed out, that is the risk one takes when belonging to a private group or school. She and her parents have the option to either comply or enroll her in another school. It might also be worth pursuing to see if the school might offer a grandfather clause for the senior class, or at minimum, a grace period or exemption for this one student.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@JLeslie I wondered the same thing about the time involved in creating the look as well as changing it.

In an ideal situation, your “Initial Locking Session” will take about 15 hours.

During the first 6 months of development, Sisterlocks can be removed. Removal will likely take more time, and be more costly than your Initial Locking Session. Most Consultants will not lock your hair if removal is a great concern. You should be sure that the Sisterlocks method is right for you. Source

Another site discusses whether they can be removed or not.

As you may already know, locks can be taken down. It is a long and tedious process, but it can be done nonetheless. So, if you are considering taking down your locks one day, be mindful that you may experience shedding of the hair, which may greatly reduce your length and thickness. In addition, depending on the method used to lock the hair, you may encounter lint balls and remnants of hair products that shed from within the lock as well. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you consider locks only if you are committed to a long-term solution for hair-care management, and not a random hairstyle that can be undone within a month or two. Source

CWOTUS's avatar

In my opinion (probably the minority again), a private school has the right to set policies and procedures – as long as they are not contrary to common law and ‘black letter’ law – and those attending the school are free to accept or reject those policies and stay or leave depending on their choice.

While the hair style that any particular person may choose to adopt is often (but not always) determined by racial characteristics (I can understand why people with kinky hair might choose to wear it in either dreadlocks or tight weaves, for example, or an Afro style), this is not “a racial issue”.

I don’t know – or even much care – why the school chose the rule that it did. The fact is that they did, and apparently jawboning or arguing against the rule has not modified it. So in that case the student’s choice is: conform (whether with good grace or not is a personal choice) or leave.

It should not be a Federal case, but I’m sure that it will be before long.

PS: My own daughter, a blue-eyed blonde whiter than Sunbeam bread, also wore her hair in ‘dreads’ for a while in high school. It’s not “racial”.

On the other hand, I also think it’s a stupid rule. I wouldn’t want to attend a school that had such stupid rules. Again, maybe that’s just me.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer So, if I understand correctly it takes a visit to the hair salon, and follow up visits every couple of months, not much different than any typical interval between haircuts or dyes. And, it seems, the maintenance for the student daily is nothing much at all. Was that your understanding?

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@JLeslie Yes. The only real difference is the laborious amount of time devoted on the front end and for removal. Daily maintenance appears to be minimal, if at all.

tedd's avatar

@CWOTUS I don’t think you’re in the minority. I think the larger debate is over whether or not the rule is stupid or not… but I think by in large we are firmly in agreement that being private, they can do whatever they feel like.

JLeslie's avatar

@tedd I think the larger debate is whether it is racist or not.

tedd's avatar

@JLeslie Meh, I’m familiar with the school… its definitely not racist. A large chunk of their student body and staff are black.

JLeslie's avatar

@tedd I am not saying that is my opinion. I am only saying that seems to be the overall question in the article. At minimum some sort of xenophobia overtone.

wundayatta's avatar

The school certainly has a right to implement the rule. People have a right to protest. The school has no obligation to pay attention to anyone else.

I wonder why they want the rule. Catholic schools tend to have strict dress and grooming codes. I think they believe these codes help student get better prepared for the work world.

The article said that the rules are enforced unequally. Boys are supposed to not let their hair grow below their collars, and yet that happens all the time and no one makes them clean up. I don’t know if there is a racial component here, since the school has a large proportion of blacks in the population.

Other than that, I find the rule inexplicable. If it isn’t racism, then what is it? Is it just that administration doesn’t like the style? Is it a symbol of black power that goes against the training of the students to fit into a white world? Are they afraid that the kids who wear this style will be teased and that will be disruptive?

I’d sure like to hear their reasoning. But they don’t owe anyone that. Clearly, though, it seems that the implementation of the rule is causing a lot of fuss and unwanted attention, and may be compromising the safety of the students. In the absence of a compelling safety reason, I think they should apologize, drop the policy and let the business of education move on.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

The author of the article is clearly attempting to make it a racist issue. It takes more than one writer’s opinion to make be buy into whether it is or isn’t. The author’s stance seems more melodramatic then fact-based.

As @CWOTUS pointed out, this hairstyle isn’t limited to one race. Like his daughter, my white niece also sported dreadlocks for several years. They didn’t get her booted from a prestigious, albeit public, university nor from being hired to work at a snooty French restaurant. There has to be more to the reason behind this new, petty rule than race.

It would be nice if the people who came up with this hair-brained ruling (sorry, I couldn’t resist) would explain the thought process behind it.

MilkyWay's avatar

I think the school is wrong.

tedd's avatar

@wundayatta In my experience with guys from Central Catholic, they most definitely had the hair length rules enforced. Very strictly. This school, like many other catholic schools, will expel any female student found to be pregnant, or any student found to have committed a sexual act… for an example of their strictness.

flutherother's avatar

I would tend to prefer a school that has high standards in dress and behaviour. The two go together. If kids can wear their hair as they like and dress as they like they will have less respect for the school. A clear policy on what kids should wear and how they should look helps eliminate the spirit of competition in fashion and expensive clothing. This has to include hairstyles.

JLeslie's avatar

I actually have always like parochial schools stance on uniforms. I feel it reduces, competition between the children, reduces time spent on preparing for school in the morning by wasting time on outward appearence, and reduces the likelihood of teacher favoritism.

I don’t think the intention of the school stems from racism, but I think it might feel that way to black students, since it is a “black” hairstyle, even if white people sport it sometimes. I believe the school would be fine with an afro style, left basically naturally, which is typically a black persons hairstyle.

For me the question is, does this create a situation where now other girls in the school feel compelled to have to spend the time and money to compete with the style. If I read correctly girls are to have short hair, or hair pulled back off their face. I think the intent is not only to look clean and disciplined, but to decrease emphasis on outward appearance. My gut reaction was, I like the conformity rules of the school. However, since this style means little maintanence for the student on a daily basis, in some ways it fits into not having a child waste time on beauty.

The white girls can pull their hair back in a ponytail for school, and then fluff it like Farrah Faucett on the weekend. If a girl wants this sisterlock style, her only coice is to have it all the time.

I still am not sure where I stand.

Poser's avatar

My public high school wouldn’t allow boys to have hair longer than their collars or any sort of visible piercings. I see no problem with a private school’s decision to enforce a dress code. It’s just hair. Get over it.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

The dress code seems to state that dreadlocks or twisty type hairstyles are not permitted. Seems pretty cut and dry, to me.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

This is what we, race activists, like to call racist microagression. @ANef_is_Enuf A dress code is arbitrarily made up by people who hold certain views about what’s ‘appropriate’ and it seems that most of the time, what’s appropriate is what white people are doing only.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir so spiked hair and mohawks in the same dress code are also racist microaggression?
I’m not a fan of dress codes, period. But I think it’s pretty cut and dry that when a rule is broken, and it’s plainly laid out and available, there isn’t much to argue.

JilltheTooth's avatar

That may be true in some cases, @Simone_De_Beauvoir , but I seriously doubt it here, as the other hairstyles they ban seem to be predominately worn by white teenagers, and when the “twisty” hairstyles are adopted by straight haired white kids, the distraction factor is very high. I’ve sat on the types of boards and committees that deal with this stuff, and the main concern is just that, distraction. Not race, not ethnic grouping, not even social or financial standing, but distraction.

flutherother's avatar

I wasn’t going to bring the ‘r’ word into this but I will just to say I don’t see anything racist in the school’s policy whatsoever.

JLeslie's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I hear that argued by the black community often, but white people need to conform as well. I hear them complain they have to perm there hair to conform to white standards. I don’t hear any white people expecting black people to straighten their hair, or judging black people when they have a more natural hair style, and certainly white girls are worried about curling and straightening, and hair products also.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf No, that’s more about conformity, actually, conformity to an ideal whiteness. As to the idea of ‘we can’t argue dress codes and all that’, we can at least analyze why they overwhelmingly seem to support a kind of look that people of other races or cultures don’t have. @JilltheTooth What is officially presented and why these things are actually thought of as distraction are two different things, in my opinion.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I see no issue other than a paper picked it up because the student is black. This happens all of the time in Catholic schools. Students are warned once, then sent home if they do not comply.

Private school=private rules.

Kids get sent o the principals office for untucking shirts, wearing shorts longer than the hem of their skirt-etc.

JilltheTooth's avatar

The specific example of the dreads was found to be a distraction when on the heads of the straight-haired white kids, as it requires much more artificial effort to maintain. I’m not talking about the official version, here, I’m talking behind the scenes discussions. In the situation I spoke of, it was decided to not allow anyone to have that hairstyle rather than to discriminate against the white kids, as it was figured that that was a can of worms no-one wanted to open, again, because of the distraction. Obviously the article is designed to get everybody’s knickers in a twist, I feel bad for the school having to do damage control on this.
And, @Simone_De_Beauvoir , until they (whoever the hell “they” are) can come up with an all inclusive ethnic normative to dictate dress code rules, the people who run these schools are doing the best they can to keep quality education at the forefront of their agenda. This one here is a Catholic school, the Catholics who run it are going by their norm.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@JilltheTooth All private schools go by ‘their norm’ which doesn’t include many people, that’s just how it is. It doesn’t mean I can’t tease out patterns when they do exist.

JLeslie's avatar

It would be interesting to know what predominately black Catholic schools have as their dress codes, including hair.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Multiple braiding is not permitted, no matter where the Catholic school is. Hair is to be neat, with no “decorations” showing. Some schools permit a scrunchy with the school colors. Most allow head bands and hair ties to match the hair color.

JLeslie's avatar

@SpatzieLover I like the policy.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I do too. It cuts down on the BS.

It’s a private school with education at the foundation. Individualism can come once schooling is done.

tedibear's avatar

I taught at an all African American Catholic K-8 school. I cannot remember what the policy was for girls’ hair beyond clean and neatly styled. Boys were not allowed to have any lines or designs cut into their hair. This included even a straight line that looked like a “part.” If there were any lines or designs, the boy was sent home until his head was shaved or it grew out. None of my students were an issue, but I do remember two sixth-graders being sent home for this. Both sets of parents came in and complained. The principal brought out the parental agreement forms that they had signed stating that they agreed to adhere to the policies of the school. For whatever it’s worth, which might not be much, my principal was an African American female.

mrrich724's avatar

I have libertarian tendencies, so I think it’s fine. They can do what they want. Also, it’s a privately funded school, so they can do whatever they want even more so!

I do think there is potential for them to be acting ridiculous though. It depends on the haircut, I clicked the link and didn’t see the hair cut, and I’m not reading that 5 page essay. . . but if the haircut is a moderately sized fro, no biggie. . . . but there is DEFINITELY room for a haircut to be a distraction to students . . . if someone came to school with a Travis Barker type haircut or a Dennis Rodman, I could easily see all the children going crazy and the school being justified.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I’m really surprised at how conforming all these schools are, it’s hilarious. Glad my kid isn’t going to a private school but he did go to a private pre-school and my thinking was ‘If I’m paying $1300/month for him to go here, you’re not about to tell me what your policies are about hair or anything on his body and you will damn well braid his hair and put it into ponytails not matter how much you want to ‘properly socialize’ him’. I just don’t get how it’s okay to just say ‘oh that’s the RULES, we must follow, dun dun dun, let’s not ask why ever ‘cause they can do what they want since they are private.’ @tedibear I would hypothesize that that school wanted to put on an air of what they believed was the successful look in society and made their kids adhere to it.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I’m just guessing here, @Simone_De_Beauvoir , but everything about that ^^^ indicates that you know very little about, and have very little experience with private schools.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@JilltheTooth I’m thinking they’re not all the same though. I’m thinking catholic ones are different from other private schools, etc. I have experience with the private pre-school my kids attend and that’s exactly how I deal with them. I don’t think, they can tell me how to have my kid look, at any school, for any price. That’s a matter of personal beliefs.

JLeslie's avatar

@wundayatta I meant to respond to your comment about dress code preparing students for work. I had never ever even considered this previously, until about two years ago that is exactly what someone said to me. He was comparing white private schools, yes white kids predominently, to the black kids in other schools. He was hypothesizing why black people don’t do as well on the adult world here in Memphis. Of course a gross generalization. That he having to wear a unifrom every day helped him be able to move into the work place easier. My response was, “that might make sense if Memphis schools didn’t have a dress code, but they do. Plus, I bet a huge percentage of Ivy League schools, Wall Street, Lawyers, and doctors went to public schools without a dress code and now wear a suit every day.” I realize you, Wunday, are not saying the dress code necessarily prepares children for the future, I assume you were just making a comment on the possible thought process. What would be curious, and maybe @JilltheTooth knows the answer, is if the people who make these dress code decisions have that inntheir heads at all when they makes these codes.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@JLeslie : That is part of the discussion, indeed. It’s not an unreasonable concept that from age 5 to 18 school is the student’s job. School is a place they are required to be, and they are expected to be responsible within the parameters of the curriculum. The student needs to understand that there are expected behaviors that contribute to the perception of professional worth when they are in the earning world. Mostly, as I said it’s about distraction. Kids tend to have…er…variable attention spans, the schools try to keep them focused.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir : I genuinely wish you luck with that attitude if you try to have your kids go to any of the competitive private schools that don’t focus on the arts. Most of them don’t need the business of people who don’t want to work within their system, the waiting lists are long.

JLeslie's avatar

@JilltheTooth I completely agree with the distraction and wanting to level the playing field, but most people do not wear uniforms to work. I like uniforms because they are rather mindless, I don’t see how that really helps a kid pick out work clothes. I think that children have an understanding of being clean and neat and appropriate is learned with or without a uniform.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@JLeslie : Most of us have to follow a dress code when we go to work. It’s not necessarily laid out in the employee handbook, but we learn pretty quickly what’s appropriate and acceptable. I’ve never met a judge that would tolerate jeans on an attorney in his courtroom, and a high-school English teacher that wears hot-pants and patent red stilettos in the classroom better have her union rep on speed dial. When a private school chooses a uniform over a dress code, it’s often because hammering out the details of a dress code is beyond tedious. Uniforms will also cost the student less as many companies deal directly with the schools and sell the uniforms at a discount.

JLeslie's avatar

@JilltheTooth I completely agree with everything you said. It is basically what I have stated in the Q all along. My only point was I disagree that uniforms are better practice for aduthood. I think it is not better or worse. We all have to dress appropriately for work, school, church, hiking, restaurants, etc. Society has expectations for various reasons, modesty, safety, even random reasons. I support uniforms, I wish they were in every school, but not because they supposedly teach a kid what to wear in a particular situation, I don’t think they really accomplish that very well. In adulthood we need to be able to evaluate what is appropriate without being specifically told exactly what shoes, pants, and shirt to wear.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Truly one of the great misconceptions about school uniformsis that they are there to repress the young, stifle their creativity, etc. Mostly it’s about, as I said, distraction. It levels the playing field as well, can’t tell the difference between the wealthy kids and the scholarship kids at a glance. It doesn’t eradicate the inequities of social and financial station, but it minimizes it, a lot. Really it strikes me that this is not a hill worth dying on. Anyone who makes a huge issue of this is saying that the entire persona of the child is tied to clothes they wear for 35-ish hours a day for 180 or so days a year. I don’t know many adults who freak at the tacit dress code at a job, they just change when they get home. I’d be way more concerned about the quality of the teachers at the school, the type of curriculum, etc etc.

JLeslie's avatar

@JilltheTooth I agree. I am pro uniform because they level the playing field, not only among the children, but also in how the teacher views the student, and because I like that it is rather mindless for parents and children. I just didn’t like how this one gentlemen I was speaking to credited his shirt and tie at school to making him some how superior in the end to the black kids in the hood. I can’t help but tell him that he is clueless to how the rest of the country has plenty of public schools without a uniforn that produce stellar students. His narrow scope and exposure has him making assumptions that take away from the true problems at hand.

Wen I worked at bloomingdale’s my fragrance counter wanted uniforms. Many of the cosmetics counters wear them, Lancome, Chanel, Etc. We never got around to doing it, but everyone wanted to just throw on a uniform and not have to think about it.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I’ve worked in uniformed environments, as well as going to a private school with uniforms in a (much!) younger day. I liked not having to think about what to wear. But then, I’ve never liked thinking about what to wear!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@JilltheTooth I am really not the type to obsess about trying to get my kids into a private school.

Blackberry's avatar

It’s a very trivial rule, but private schools have the right to do that. But I’m also thinking for them to have that rule, she probably wouldn’t be welcomed with open arms, either, so she’s better off not going there.

wundayatta's avatar

I think that one of the problems was uneven enforcement of the rule about hair. A second was about the apparent randomness of the prohibition against sister locks. A third was the arbitrariness of the standard overall.

I had to wear a school uniform one year when I was at a school in England. I did not appreciate it, but I still have my old school tie. Sometimes I think about ordering the old boys tie. I think I count as an old boy now. The tie is kind of cute.

The school I went to also had mandatory religion, another thing I didn’t like. I wish I’d known I was Jewish back then, because I could have gotten out of it. But, overall, religion and uniforms were an interesting cultural novelty, and I’m glad I had the experience, even if I was a self-righteous prig.

JLeslie's avatar

@wundayatta Are you Jewish now? Or, you just feel Jewish by osmosis?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

That is one more reason why the choice to home school, when the time comes seem correct. The way I see it is that you have two issues, the right of the school to conduct business as they please, and if they overstepped that in their policy.

If I were in the position of the school I would want to be able to set dress standards, etc with out being meddle with by the city or state. That is why private schools are private.

However, even though it is a private school they are still under the greater law of the land. They could not use the students for slave labor as part of their attendance, etc. Does the ban on Sisterlocks go beyond fairness? They did not say what other hair wearing restrictions there was. Can a boy sport a neon green Mohawk? Can a girl wear neon purple tracks and shells in her hair? What about the kid with the spiky gel fade? What about the Middle Eastern girl with the head covering, is that a ban? If there are other hair restrictions in play, I would say they didn’t overstep. If basically, any other type of hair or color goes, it might be a little more than just policy if it is not equal to all. Just because it is a private school, if they had busses they can’t force all the minority kids to ride at the back if they wanted to sit up front. The school can have separate drinking fountains.

If the family want to take it there, the issue will more than likely have to be resolved by people in expensive suits, hashing it out in court to see what the law says, and how it has to be applied. If the hair is not a hazard wearing to the student or anyone else I think it is a bit much. Then I don’t know what other hair restrictions are in play.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Uh, @Hypocrisy_Central , read the link.
”...For general hairstyles:Dreadlocks or “twisty” hairstyles are not acceptable. Hair carvings are not permitted. Hair color is to be of one of the original colors. No hairstyle is to call attention to itself. Spikes and Mohawks are strictly forbidden. No exaggerated hairstyles. The AP/Dean will make the final ruling on hairstyles and colors.

Further along, for Gentlemen it reads:

6) Hair is to be neat, clean, properly combed, does not extend beyond the bottom of the collar or in some way obscures a student’s face. (No dreadlocks) If a student dyes his hair, it is to be of only one traditional color.
The AP/Dean is the final judge of what is acceptable. No exaggerated hairstyles.”

wundayatta's avatar

@JLeslie My mother’s mother was Jewish. I didn’t know that until I was 20. According to the law of return, I gather that makes me eligible. Not entirely sure about that. In any case, it is certain that no Jew would want to claim me as Jewish. Besides which, I have no desire to be an active, practicing, participating Jew, so the point is moot.

Neither to I wish to be a Northern Baptist, my father’s heritage. Sometimes I like to think of myself as a Puritan Jew. No wonder I’m bipolar!

JLeslie's avatar

@wundayatta Puritan Jew. Haha. Why not? Usually the Jews don’t get together with the Baptists, but I know of one other couple. Probably because the Jews don’t usually live near many Baptists, and the areas they do live near them everyone tends to be more religious and more clannish. You fit into my stereotypes now that I know you were raised by a Jewish mother. Generalizations of course.

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