A Kentucky High School Banned Black Hairstyles, Which Obviously Didn’t Go Over Well

Over the years, school dress codes have been heavily scrutinized for unfairly targeting a specific subset of the student body. These rules are enough to make us wonder if it’s 2016 or 1602. But, one school’s policy against natural hairstyles is so blatantly racist that parents and the internet wasted no time berating it for the awful rules.

Louisville, Kentucky-based Butler Traditional High School’s personal grooming section of their policy specifically named dreadlocks, cornrows (which it called “cornrolls”), twists, and mohawks as styles that would not be permitted at the school. They also banned “afros more than two inches in length” and “cut-in designs.” To put this in simple terms, they are against the hairstyles that many black students of both sexes wear.

The story first came to the media’s attention when one parent, Attica Scott, posted a photo of the policy on her Twitter account. In the post, Ms. Scott (who has locs herself) said her daughter was understandably upset about the bias toward natural hairstyles. She also made a public statement saying the policy “stinks of institutional racism.” The tweet quickly burned through social media and the school quickly realized its major fuck up.

Now, the school district superintendent, Donna Hargens, has replied to the controversy, saying in a statement she doesn’t want to infringe on anyone’s culture and wants to “include parents in the conversation.” Not sure what that means, but it appears the school has temporarily suspended the policy. Ya know, because that’s the normal course of action after the internet blasts you for your ridiculous dress codes.

This policy should not have existed in the first place. It’s obvious there was not one single black person involved in drafting these ridiculous rules. If there had been a black person (or a person with two working brain cells), they would have asked what the fuck they were doing when they even thought it was OK to ban hairstyles that are an inherent part of an entire culture.

As a black woman with hair that naturally grows in an afro, every single styling option that I have was banned in Butler Traditional High School’s grooming policy. I wear my more than two inch length afro (which looks longer or shorter depending on the weather), twists, and sometimes cornrows (WTF is a “cornroll”) as a way to give my hair a break from daily styling. Yes, I can straighten my hair with heat, but I’m only one humid day (or drop of rain) away from going right back into afro mode. It’s how my hair grows — those are my main styling options, and I am OK with it all. I also have two daughters and neither one of them would be able to attend this school based on the natural hair ban. It’s sad because students shouldn’t have to feel like they need to assimilate their hair to avoid getting in trouble at school.

It’s time for people to get their heads out of their asses and realize there is nothing wrong with a black person wearing their hair how it grows. And, school policies need to take this into account and realize that straight hair is not the default for many people. Afros, dreadlocks, and Odell Beckham, Jr. haircuts are not unprofessional or distracting — they are simply a styling option that isn’t hurting anyone. They are the styles black people have worn for literally hundreds of years and will continue to wear in the future. The fact that an entire group of people came together and gave this policy the proverbial thumbs-up is a clear sign that the self-esteem and self-expression of black students was not considered.

Hey Butler, we know you have “traditional” in your school name, but that word should also encompass black traditions, including hairstyles. Get it together.