Christian school backs off expulsion threat to bullied African-American girl over ‘natural’ hair

By David Ferguson
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 15:30 EDT
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Vanessa VanDyke via screencap
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A Christian school in Orlando, Florida, told a 12-year-old African-American girl and her family that she must change her naturally curly, voluminous hair to a more conventional style or face expulsion from school.

According to Eyewitness 10 News, when seventh-grader Vanessa VanDyke reported to school officials that she was being bullied and harassed by other students, they issued her an ultimatum.

Administrators told the girl that she had one week to choose between cutting and straightening her hair or leaving the school that she has attended since third grade.

But after the case made international news Tuesday, school officials relented and told the girl she could keep her hairstyle.

The pre-teen told Channel 6 that she’s proud of her hair.

“It says that I’m unique,” VanDyke said. “First of all, it’s puffy and I like it that way. I know people will tease me about it because it’s not straight. I don’t fit in.”

School officials had apparently decided that the little girl’s hair poses a danger to the learning process.

“Hair must be a natural color and must not be a distraction,” reads the school’s student handbook. Hairstyles like mohawks, “rat tails” and shaved designs are forbidden. The handbook itself, however, says nothing about natural or African-American hair.

School administrators had told Vanessa VanDyke to “change (her) hair or get out” rather than deal with the children who harassed her.

“There have been bullies in the school,” said the girl’s mother, Sabrina Kent. “There have been people teasing her about her hair, and it seems to me that they’re blaming her.”

Watch a video report posted online by WKMG-TV:

KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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