Black Experience

Ga. Elementary School Criticized for Natural Hairstyle Discrimination

Narvie Harris Elementary School in Decatur, Ga., faced backlash regarding its discriminatory school policy regarding acceptable natural hairstyles worn by its students.

Administrators at the school created and displayed a poster of what they deemed “appropriate” and “inappropriate” hairstyles for class. The advertisement solely featured Black children.

A parent of a student who attends the Decatur elementary school took a photo of the poster and shared it with her hairstylist, Danay Wadlington. Wadlington posted the photo on her personal Facebook account on August 1, and the post went viral. Parents and others from all over the nation were upset and offended by the picture.

Natural hairstyles among Black children, women, and men are considered to be forms of self-expression and self-love. Black hair in its original state is thought to be unkempt and unprofessional-looking in many places, including schools and the workplace. NBC News published a news story that highlighted numerous Black children being punished for not conforming to Eurocentric standards regarding their hair.

Ironically, 98 percent of the student body at Narvie Harris Elementary School is Black. The principal and assistant principals are also Black. Finally, the nine-member principal advisory board is made of parents of students at the school, according to the school’s website. The cultural insensitivity displayed among its Black administrators and educators speaks to a bigger problem than the school’s biased policy. They have a specific and greater responsibility to instill pride and self-esteem in the children at Harris Elementary and they’ve failed them. The students will face discrimination and racism when they go out into the world. It’s grievous behavior on the part of the primarily Black staff to uphold anti-Blackness in a school with Black children.

DeKalb County School District issued a statement that appeared to distance itself from the school’s discriminatory policy.

“The images depicted in this post in no way reflect a (DeKalb County School District) policy regarding appearance. This was a miscommunication at the school level and is being handled by school leadership. Nontraditional schools at (the DeKalb County School District) sometimes have the option to enforce dress code and style standards.”

The statement went on to say, “Once the district was made aware of the poster, it was immediately removed. In addition, a letter was sent to parents clarifying the school’s dress code and appearance policy.”

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