Ohio High School's Dress Code Bans African-American Hairstyles

Most parents would agree that a dress code in high school is beneficial for students experimenting with their looks and their identity. It keeps the crazy clothing at school to a minimum and tries to change the focus of attention from what people are wearing to what the kids are supposed to be learning.

Horizon Science Academy in Ohio took that ideal of uniformity entirely too far though: they banned African-American hairstyles. In their letter to parents detailing the school's updated dress code, the school included the line: "Afro-puffs and small twisted braids, with our [sic] without rubberbands, are NOT permitted."

For those who aren't familiar with these terms, "Afro-puffs" is just what happens when natural black hair is pulled into a ponytail, like this:


And while "small twisted braids" could refer to several different hairstyles, most people are taking it to mean box braids, a hairstyle that both protects natural hair and is easy to maintain. It looks like this:


These hairstyles are often worn by black girls because they do not involve chemical processing or (usually) hair extensions. By banning natural hairstyles, what the school is implicitly advocating is that African-American kids chemically process their hair so that it resembles white hair and is then within the rules of Horizon Science Academy.

To put this in different terms, it would be like the administration telling white girls that they could not wear ponytails or pigtails and that they must dye their hair a different color. It's insane and what's worse, it's racist.

I'm willing to give the school the benefit of the doubt and say that this policy was probably created out of a profound ignorance and not intentional racism. But it still remains that this dress code is filled with bias. It is telling African-American girls that their hair is wrong or that it's not good enough without going through a vat of chemicals first. That message is one that never needs to reach their ears.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Medha Chandorkar

As a junior at Georgetown University in Washington DC, I'm studying Government, Women's and Gender Studies, and Justice and Peace Studies. I'm interested in social justice issues, particularly women's rights in the developing world, and politics. Outside of school, I love dancing and reading, and I'm a huge TV / movie buff. In the future, I hope to become a lawyer but right now, I'm just focused on the moment.

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