A Florida school has threatened 12-year-old Vanessa VanDyke with expulsion for not cutting her natural hair.
VanDyke told a local Orlando station that she was given one week to decide whether or not she will cut her hair or leave Faith Christian Academy, a private school in Orlando she has attended since the third grade.
“It says that I’m unique,” VanDyke told the local news station WKMG. “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 say that VanDyke is violating the institution’s official dress code, which includes clauses about hair care. Her mother, Sabrina Kent, said that when she attempted to file a report about other students teasing about her daughter’s hair, school administrators told her that her daughter’s hair violated school dress codes for being a “distraction.”
Faith Christian Academy implements a dress code and states how students are allowed to style their hair. “Hair must be a natural color and must not be a distraction,” the student handbook reads, and lists examples that are not allowed including mohawks, shaved designs and rat tails.
“There have been bullies in the school,” Kent said to the local affiliate. “There have been people teasing her about her hair, and it seems to me that they’re blaming her.”
“A distraction to one person is not a distraction to another,” said Kent. “You can have a kid come in with pimples on his face. Are you going to call that a distraction?”
“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,” VanDyke told the station.
“I’m going to fight for my daughter,” Kent said. “If she wants her hair like that, she will keep her hair like that. There are people out there who may think that natural hair is not appropriate. She is beautiful the way she is.”
This is not the first time a student has been asked to leave a school from his or her black hair. This past September, 7-year-old Tiana Parker was sent home from Deborah Brown Community School, a charter school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for failing to comply with school policy. Tiana’s dreadlocks violated school rules which state that “hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, mohawks, and other faddish styles are unacceptable.”
Faith Christian Academy has not yet released any official statements.