Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has ordered a Malden charter school to end its ban on hair extensions following news that two black students there were punished for violating the dress code.
Reports surfaced last week that black students at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School had faced discipline, detentions and suspensions for wearing braids with hair extensions.
Deanna and Mya Scott, 15, were two such students. The 15-year-old black girls were given detention, banned from track and Latin Club and barred from school events for violating the dress code because they wear their hair in braids with extensions, WBZ reported.
School Interim Director Alexander Dan told WBZ that hair extensions are prohibited because they are “expensive and could serve as a differentiating factor between students from dissimilar socioeconomic backgrounds” and that by banning them, the school is “[creating] an educational environment, one that celebrates all that students have in common and minimizes material differences and distractions.”
In a letter to Dan dated Friday, Genevieve Nadeau, chief of Healey’s Civil Rights Division, noted that the school’s policies concerning students’ hair and makeup seem to single out students of color and are also “inconsistently applied” as white students who appeared to be in direct violation have not been similarly punished.
“State law prohibits discrimination by public schools, including charter schools, against students ‘on account of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin or sexual orientation,’” the letter, obtained by NECN, reads. “We are concerned that MVRCS’s Hair/MakeUp policy violates state and federal law….by subjecting students of color, especially black students, to differential treatment and thus denying them the same advantages and privileges of public education afforded to other students.”
The letter continues to say that the policies are more restrictive than those at other charter schools and because they have the effect of singling out students of color are thus “clearly unlawful.”
The investigation by the AG’s office is still ongoing but the letter requested confirmation that Mya, Deanna and any other students punished for these policies can immediately resume school activities and that the school not enforce any part of the makeup and hair policies pending the investigation’s outcome.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts also filed a complaint against the charter school this week, saying that the policy is discriminatory.