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This Girl Was Almost Expelled Because Her Hair is a “Distraction”

This Girl Was Almost Expelled Because Her Hair is a “Distraction”

There are lots of reasons a student might get distracted in school, but I never thought a student’s natural hair would be one of them.

Turns out I was wrong.

At Faith Christian Academy, a private school in Orlando, Fla., 12-year-old Vanessa VanDyke’s natural “puffy” hair was deemed a violation of the school’s official dress code which states, “Hair must be a natural color and must not be a distraction.” Van Dyke’s hair, they said, falls under the “distraction” category. The third grade student was given one week to cut or straighten her hair or be expelled from school.

“I’m depressed about leaving my friends and people that I’ve known for a while but I’d rather have that than the principals and administrators picking on me and saying that I should change my hair,” said VanDyke.

The threat came after Van Dyke’s parents contacted the school because their daughter had been bullied and teased about her hair. If you ask me, bullying is a way bigger distraction to a student than natural hair.

Luckily Van Dyke has way thicker skin than most. Speaking about her hair she said: “It says that I’m unique. First of all, it’s puffy and I like it that way.”

This type of confidence, in the face of bullies no less, is something that should be celebrated, not penalized.

After Van Dyke’s story made international news, Faith Academy revoked its expulsion threat and is letting her stay in school.

Still, what message did Faith Academy send its students by their actions? Not only did they fail to address the bullying issues going on, but they also reinforced narrow beauty standards in a world where women and girls feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful.

Earlier this fall in September Tiana Parker, a 7-year-old from Tulsa, Okla., was sent home in tears because her dreadlocks were not “presentable.” The school said that Parker’s hair could “distract from the respectful and serious atmosphere it strives for.” The school has since reversed its policy, but Parker’s parents asserted that she would not be going back to the school.

In addition to the bullying and beauty implications of what has happened to Parker and Van Dyke, there is also the racial component. Dreadlocks and afros are hairstyles that are almost exclusively worn by black people and have historical ties to the black community.

In both cases these schools are sending the message that natural black hair is inferior because it’s “distracting,” not “respectful” or “serious.” This is not the message that we want young girls, or anyone else for that matter, receiving.

You can tell Faith Academy that African American hairstyles aren’t distracting by signing our petition here.

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Photo Credit: Facebook/WKMG Local 6

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404 comments

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11:53AM PST on Jan 30, 2014

Vanessa's case struck a chord with me, because, until my 50's when aging caused my hair to thin, my hair was like hers, except that mine was light brown.

I agree with Sarah M., that if Vanessa's hair was blocking other student's view of what they needed to see, then she should tie her hair back. But, from the picture of her, her hair is no "bigger" than the big hair of the 60's, and I don't recall any Caucasian female student being harassed for her big hair. Also, I don't think Vanessa's hair is messy. Her hair looks like long curly hair that's been brushed and combed.

Until the mid 70's, I did my darnedest to tame my hair, bobby pinning it down, straightening it, sleeping with rollers made of condensed orange juice cans, etc.. And, even so, when I was in elementary school, I got bullied. My sister and I were taunted with the epithet "fuzz geraniums". So, even if Vanessa had obeyed the school dictates, the bullying would have continued.

Conclusion, this school should go after the bullies, not Vanessa.

6:10PM PST on Jan 1, 2014

What type of message are they sending out? Is the school trying to encourage racial problems?
I've read a few disturbing comments listed, so I'm just going to say, I DO agree with uniforms,
and wore them daily, I DO agree with proper etiquette, BUT lots of us have been harassed because of one thing or another during those formitive days of pre High School Education.
Don't allow these educators to dictate what they consider to be distracting.

6:51PM PST on Dec 18, 2013

the easy hatred of differences is appalling!

6:00PM PST on Dec 12, 2013

This is conformity to the extreme. What message are these "grown ups" telling children at this school?

7:18PM PST on Dec 10, 2013

Something every American SHOULD meditate upon EVERY day:

"I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ."
--Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi--

6:29PM PST on Dec 10, 2013

I'm in no way bagging on all Christians; there are many who are wonderful people, but there are also many who have a "you must look like me, dress like me, and act like me" attitude. This school falls under the latter group. I wouldn't want my child in that school anyway.

6:12PM PST on Dec 10, 2013

ah Michelle R another poor misguided soul' Christianity is like any religion , about control there is no tolerance involved in it.they say jump , you say how high and when can I come down.mind you the pick on someone cause of there haitr has been happening for a long time. I myself had" long " hair in the late 50's.yup it sat on my collor.and I took a lot of grief for my "girlly" hair . there was one guy in particular ragged on me. thru him I found out how vindictive I could be . remember what happen to guys hair length when the beatles arrived?so by then we'd left school.he had a good job but had to have shorty hair.so he spent a fair $$ on the good wig, so he'd have "long hair"and he usually kept to one of the popular bars unlike me who preferredea kick-ass honkey.so one nite I was at his bar and walked by his table with hisnew friends and several attractive young ladies as I passed I reached out grabbed the wig ,off it came onto the table and into a pitcher of beer.and I kept on walking.

5:51AM PST on Dec 9, 2013

When I went to school, we ALL had to go by rules which were designed to keep kids from picking on eachother & also made us all look neat & tidy.

One of them was that our hair ALWAYS had to be tied back if it was long enough, and kept away from our face if it was short (like with a hair band).. so basically whatever kind of hair you had.. it was away from the face of the student as well as any other kids who might play with them.

I feel terrible saying it BUT we had some kids who did not wash their hair often enough or simply left it dry naturally which was just messy looking, which sometimes caused other kids to bully them.

Im no fan of ANY bully but if all they had to do was tidy up her hair and pull it back, why didn't they just do that?

I feel as though every student represents their school during school hours, so it seems normal to me, that they would have a rule like that.

11:00PM PST on Dec 8, 2013

Tx.......Her Hair....really???? that is just stupid....dumb...dumb....dumb....and stupid people.!

7:34AM PST on Dec 5, 2013

Vanessa, you are a lovely girl and they were wrong to discriminate against you. Your hair should NOT be an issue, it is beautiful.

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Lindsay Spangler Lindsay Spangler is a Web Editor and Producer for Care2 Causes. A recent UCLA graduate, she lives in... more
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