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Opinion and Editorial

How Dreadful!: School’s Rejection of Girl’s Hairstyle Sparks National Outcry

There hasn’t been this much to-do about a little girl’s hairdo since Willow Smith whipped hers back and forth back in 2010.

Deborah Brown Community School in Tulsa, Okla. was apparently afraid that the classroom would turn into a paint-splattered dance party like in Smith’s music video, so they told Tiana Parker, a 7-year-old student at the school, to get rid of her dread

Tiana Parker was in violation of the school’s dress code, which read, “Hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, mohawks, and other faddish styles are unacceptable.” The school also told local news outlet, KOKI-TV, that Tiana’s hairstyle might “distract from the respectful and serious atmosphere it strives for.”

Tiana Parker (left) and Deborah Brown, Founder and Executive Director of Deborah Brown Community School (right)

Instead of changing his daughter’s hair, Terrence Parker, who is a barber, chose to remove his daughter from the school.

Tiana’s story sparked a national outcry. It made headlines and caught national attention. A few state legislators even expressed concern about the policy and suggested the school change it. An online petition in support of Tiana has reached over 20,000 signatures.

There may be several reasons for the enthusiastic and widespread outrage over something as seemingly trivial as a young girl’s hairstyle. Two of the hairstyles banned in the school’s dress code are natural hairstyles for African Americans (afros and dreadlocks). This caused many to accuse the school of being racist, although the founder, the entire board, and most of the students and faculty are African American.

Another reason may be the way the school handled the situation. According to Tiana’s father, the school “hassled” him, told his daughter she looked “unpresentable,” and sent her home in tears.

“They didn’t like my dreads,” she sobbed in an interview with KOKI-TV.

And when you make a little girl cry on TV, people generally don’t take too kindly to you.

Either way, the end result of the situation was that about two weeks after Tiana Parker withdrew from Deborah Brown Community School, the school issued an apology and changed their dress code in regard to hairstyles.

Since the school is a charter school, it is run privately and, therefore, has the right to create its own rules, within reason. I don’t think the school had any sinister intentions lurking behind their dress code; rather, they took a rule a step too far and did not see far enough ahead to foresee an incident like this one.

The outcry from the community and the entire nation was what they needed to realize that this particular rule was not a good one. I think the fact that people stood up for Tiana and got a rule they saw as unjust changed demonstrates something admirable about our society.

Although Tiana’s hairstyle is now allowed, she will not be coming back to the school. “That does not change the fact that our 7-year-old daughter Tiana was made to feel that there was something wrong with her appearance, in turn coming home in tears,” said her family in a statement.


Kevin Randolph studies Mass Communications at Bloomsburg University. He is a member of the class of 2016.