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Pa. school to consider ending 'big Afro' ban after NAACP's letter

After facing questions from the NAACP and a parent, a Philadelphia school is prepared to relax its ban on "big Afros."
Pa. school to consider ending 'big Afro' ban after NAACP's letter
Posted at 1:26 PM, Feb 07, 2024

After receiving a letter from the NAACP-Legal Defense Fund, the Cedar Grove Christian Academy in Philadelphia said its board will consider a modification to the school's dress code. 

The NAACP-LDF criticized the school for banning "big Afros" and dreadlocks in its school dress code. The NAACP-LDF says that such bans constitute natural hair discrimination and enforcing the ban would violate state and federal laws. 

Jeffrey R. Howard, the school's principal, said a new policy will be voted upon at the school's next board meeting. 

The current policy states, "Boys' hair "must be neat, clean, and well groomed in style. Hair should be off the ears, clean around the collar, and may not hang below the eyebrows when in a natural position. No tails, unnatural hair colors, big Afros, dreadlocks, or punk styles. Cornrows are acceptable if kept short with no more than one-inch long braids at the end of the cornrow."

The new policy would read, "Hair must be neat, clean, and well groomed in style. For all hair styles, a student's hair should not hang below the bottom of the collar or the top of the eyebrows. No tails, unnatural hair colors, spiked hair or mohawks are permitted. Afros, cornrows, braids, dreadlocks, locks, and twists are acceptable if kept neat, clean, and well groomed in style. Before doing something new, please check with the Middle School Supervisor."

Howard said a parent questioned the hair policy eight months ago, prompting the school to consider changes. 

"Many styles have been added throughout the years," Howard said. "Styles such as afros, cornrows, twists, locks and braids are all part of and permitted under our present hair code. We hold it to a shorter length so that hair cannot fall below the top of the ears, eyes and collar when the hair is the natural position. This is what has come into question now and we are going through a process of evaluation to make sure we are being fair and equal to all involved and are taking all views into consideration."

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The school says violations of the school's dress code are met with warnings at first, but subsequent violations could result in disciplinary actions. 

"Penalty may include: loss of informal dress privileges, demerits, or loss of admittance to class," the school's student handbook says.

In its letter to the schools, the NAACP-LDF cited a 2021 report by WPVI-TV that found Black students are far more likely than other students to be suspended for discretionary reasons, such as violations of dress code. 

The NAACP has noted efforts to ban hair discrimination. In 2019, California passed the CROWN Act, which bans discrimination based on a person's hairstyle or texture. 

There have been efforts to implement a similar bill across the U.S. In 2022, the House of Representatives passed the Crown Act of 2022 by a 235-189 margin with 14 Republicans joining 221 Democrats in support. The bill, however, did not get moved in the Senate.

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