Apparently, dreadlocks are a fad and an unacceptable hair choice for students at the Deborah Brown Community School in Oklahoma. Terrance Parker reported that he had no choice but to remove his daughter, Tiana, out of the charter school because her small, tightly dreaded hair was deemed inappropriate. Whereas the school's policy does include dreadlocks as a violation of the dress-code policy included in the parent-student handbook, but the larger implication of the dress code is that it promotes a recipe for academic success that relies on societal approval of what you look like, instead of empowering students with character-building tools for lifelong success.
Deborah Brown Community School claims to be interested in educating the “total child.” Part of educating a total child should include empowerment of individual expressions of who the child is, which includes hair. As long as a student's hygiene is not neglected, creative hairstyles should not be considered inappropriate. How a child wears his or her hair is not an indication of his or her academic prowess or ability to garner success later in life. Would you say Tiana's straight A's are in danger because of her hair? I should certainly hope not.
Perhaps the dilemma for the school was that dreadlocks give off cultural impressions of drug-selling, lazy people. If the idea is that you become what you look like, then shame on the school for stereotyping. A discussion about dreads could have been fruitful in providing empowerment for Tiana and other children to learn about stereotypes and employing non-judgment — something that would truly be character building. Instead, a young child got the impression that she was not liked because she did not look appropriate by someone else's standards. What Deborah Brown Community School did sounds more like character and spirit breaking to me than empowering a student into academic and life-long success.
In a world where we need more civility, our schools should re-think just what character-building really means. Diplomacy, tolerance, critical thinking, and compassion should be the foundations of excellence, not superficial attributes.
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