A mother is recommending administrators in a Texas school district undergo diversity training, after they told her 9-year-old daughter her hair was unacceptable.
Marian Reed said an assistant principal at Tarver Elementary School in Belton, Texas pulled her third grade child out of physical education class and called home because her hair was not in compliance with the school dress code.
"She cried and said no one was going to want to be her friend because her hair was not as pretty as the assistant principal's,” Reed said. “And, as a parent, that's heartbreaking because that's just what God naturally gave her."
Like many young black girls, Marian said her daughter’s hair does not lie flat. So, she put her daughter’s hair in small pony tails – sometimes known as ‘afro puffs.’ No part of the hair was shaved or dyed. But, school officials claimed the pony tails resembled a fauxhawk – a hairstyle similar to a mohawk. Both hairstyles are prohibited by the elementary school dress code.
"It wasn't in a mohawk,” Reed said, “It's not shaved on the side or anything. She was a little girl being 9 years old."
Reed believes the school’s decision to reprimand her daughter was discriminatory because she said school officials took no issue when her daughter wore the same style – just with longer, synthetic braids instead of her natural hair.
"I don't believe that it was intended to be racial,” Reed said. “But, I think, the district as a whole may need some cultural diversity training."
Reed said she wished district leaders would have spoken solely with her about the dress-code violation, instead of making her daughter feel her hair was wrong.
"They could have called me and discussed it with me without pulling her out of class and without having that conversation in front of her because now she's questioning her natural image.” Reed said. “And, at nine years old, she's going to remember that for the rest of her life."
Before posting her daughter’s experience to Facebook, Reed contacted the district office and spoke with Charla Trejo, the executive director of campus leadership. In an interview Monday, Trejo told KCEN the district was just enforcing the dress code and being consistent.
“We had an assistant principal call a parent and make them aware of the dress code issue,” Trejo said. “And then just try to resolve that by asking them to take care of that."
Reed said she wants the district to admit there is a problem and take corrective action, including having diversity training, to prevent future incidents.
"Do we need training? We are always willing to train and to learn and do things,” Trejo said. “However, this particular situation was about consistency. It was about making sure we have the same expectations for everyone."