Kemirah Jn-Marie is a “flyer” on the Ross S. Sterling High School varsity cheer squad in Baytown, Texas, just outside of Houston. Meaning, she is the one the squad members lifted and throw in the air. But now the 15-year-old’s hard work comes down to one thing, and it isn’t her ability to cheer, it’s her hair.
“She makes me feel bad about myself,” Jn-Marie told ABC13 regarding her cheer coach.
She had special braids done in her hair in the hopes that she would meet the cheer requirement that hair must be “pulled back in a secure ponytail” and hair “must not distract from the cheer environment.” But the cheer coach told the young woman that if she showed up to the upcoming football game with her hair in the braids she’d worn to school then she wouldn’t be allowed to perform.
“I said, ‘If that’s the case, put it in writing. Just put it in writing,'” the girl’s mother said, but the school district refused to do so.
The guidelines don’t say anything specifically about braids, instead, it leaves it up to the school to decide what is or isn’t appropriate. “I feel like she singles me out,” said Jn-Marie.
Her mother thinks it’s more about a racist cheer coach, that is trying to make only the black member’s hair into something that is somehow wrong or disruptive. Her daughter is the only member of the cheer squad and says that other girls are given much more leeway in their hairstyles. “She’s been harassed. She’s been bullied by her teacher, and I’m tired of it,” Jn-Marie’s mother continued.
A spokesperson for Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District tried to pass the incident off as nothing more than a disagreement.
They issued a statement saying, “This student is not the only cheerleader who has been asked to correct her hairstyle, or other parts of her uniform; further, she was in no way reprimanded, punished or kept from participating – she was simply reminded to use the agreed-upon hairstyle. In no way do we discriminate, or tolerate, discrimination of any student.”
In the end, she went to the game on Saturday with her braids still in and was allowed to perform.
School districts across the country have had many conflicts with black girls and their hair. One Kentucky high school banned black women from having “natural hair.” Last year there were at least seven schools that shamed or punished girls of color because of their hair.
Watch a full report below: