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Are School Districts Taking Hair Color Too Seriously?

Marshae Essett, a high school student in the KATY school district has been wearing burgundy color since the first day of school.  After several weeks into the school year, an assistant principal told Marshae she had to get rid of the dye or face in-school suspension.

The rules concerning hair in Katy ISD state:

Hair must be clean, well-groomed and out of the eyes, and shall be a natural occurring color that is styled in a way that is neither distracting nor conspicuous. Facial hair such as mustaches, beards, and goatees is not allowed. Males may not wear sideburns below the earlobes. Hair styles that create a safety hazard or a material or substantial disruption are not permitted.

Marshae's mother, Ida Glover says that if she takes the color out of her child's hair, the girl won't have hair. She argues that African American hair is "particularly delicate and re-coloring won't be easy." She also charges that her daughter, who is black, is being profiled in a school that is predominately white.

You will see green hair in school, blue, mohawks with color in it. If every kid got the same treatment as my daughter did, I would feel better,” Glover said.

Take for example, eleventh grader Sabreena Horton is enjoying a stylish $150.00 set of braids that are blond and brown. Apparently, that fashion statement is okay, but her little sister’s burgundy hair is not.

Working around the problem, Marshae served an in-school suspension on Monday, but on Tuesday she borrowed her mother's wig to get back into class.  Marshae insists she is not giving up. She is planning to take the fashion fight one step further with a petition and protest.

We are going to buy color weave extensions, glue them in and walk around with a lot of people just to let them know we’re not going to change our hair color,” said Marshae.  

She says she’s not worried about school suspension, because they don’t even have enough chairs for everyone.

The district insists the policy is administered impartially. Stanford says at least one student with green hair and one with pink were already disciplined and that most students simply get rid of the unnatural color.

Several questions arise with this story. 1) Are student rights being violated by forcing them to wear their hair a certain color? 2) If African American natural hair colors are mainly black and brown, while other nationalities hair colors range from blonde to bright red – is Marshae being treated fairly for wearing a neutral shade of burgundy? Lastly, 3) Is Marshae taking the right approach by protesting, rather than fighting for her rights in a legal manner?

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says that students being suspended for the color of their hair is nothing new. They have fought several of these cases and won them out of court.

Also, can someone explain to me what exactly would be considered a hairstyles that creates a safety hazard or a material or substantial disruption?  That really has me baffled.

see video here

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