Massachusetts School Bans Two Black Girls From Prom Because They Wore Box Braids To School

One school’s troubling and discriminatory hair policy is catching heat across the Internet. According to Newsweek, Mystic Valley Regional Charter School reprimanded two African-American teen girls for coming to school with box braids.

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Deanna and Maya Cook said they were banned from prom and were left in a state of shock once the Massachusetts school’s officials handed down their ruling. “It makes me feel like my culture and my hair was not important enough to be represented around the school,” Maya Cook said in an interview with Boston 25 News. They’ve been prohibited from participating on their sports teams as well. The decision was made after the teens reportedly refused to take out the extensions.

In addition to banning that hairstyle, the school’s policy is also against the usage of nail polish, makeup and hair coloring, The Boston Globe highlights. The girls’ adoptive mother, Colleen Cook, said these instances happened to other students as well. “All the little black children were marched down for a hair inspection, whether they had braids or not, and asked, ‘are those extensions’ ‘are your braids real or not?'” she said.

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The mother of five also reassured her honor roll teens that “there’s nothing wrong with their hair the way it is. Their hair is beautiful, there’s no correcting that needs to be done.” The Boston Globe shares that the Anti-Defamation League will meet with the school’s officials this week.

The school also issued a statement, standing firm behind their policy:

“The Mystic Valley Regional Charter School serves a diverse student population from surrounding communities that include Everett, Medford and Malden, among other cities.  The school consistently ranks among the top schools in Massachusetts in MCAS testing, SAT testing and college admissions.  We send students from all walks of life, including those of color and those from limited means, to the best colleges and universities in the nation. One important reason for our students’ success is that we purposefully promote equity by focusing on what unites our students and reducing visible gaps between those of different means. Our policies, including those governing student appearance and attire, foster a culture that emphasizes education rather than style, fashion, or materialism. Our policy on hair extensions, which tend to be very expensive, is consistent with, and a part of, the educational environment that we believe is so important to our students’ success.”

The subject of braids was previously policed in Iowa when — in the 21st century — law officials finally decriminalized the penalty for hair braiding stylists who practiced without a license. In the mandate’s beginnings, you could face up to a year in prison if caught without a cosmetology certificate, which can run upwards of $20,000.