In the face of mounting pressure, administrators at a Florida school are backing off threats to expel a 12-year-old student for not cutting or straightening her hair.
Administrators at Faith Christian Academy have now asked Vanessa VanDyke to style her hair differently, according to local affiliate WKMG.
Last week, when the student's mother, Sabrina Kent, filed a complaint with the school about other students teasing her daughter about her hair style, a school adviser said her daughter must straighten or cut her hair or face expulsion.
"African-American hair grows out. It doesn't grow down," mother Sabrina Kent told the local station in Orlando. "Her hair is her hair. What am I supposed to do?"
Vanessa says her hair is different from the other students at her private school "because it's not straight," but that she loves her hair the way it is naturally.
"It says that I'm unique," she 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."
Vanessa said cutting or straightening her hair is not an option but that she does not want to leave the school she has attended since the third grade.
"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.
With increasing backlash against the school's dress code, school administrators told Local 6 in a statement on Tuesday,
"We are not asking her to put products in her hair or to cut her hair," read a statement sent to the station. "We are asking her to style her hair within the guidelines according to the school handbook."
The school's student handbook states that "Hair must be a natural color and must not be a distraction." The handbook also indicates specific examples, noting "mohawks, shaved signs, rat tails, etc" are not allowed.
"A distraction to one person is not a distraction to another," Kent said. "You can have a kid come in with pimples on his face. Are you going to call that a distraction?"
“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.”
Kent told the station her family will discuss their options over the Thanksgiving holiday.