(NEW ORLEANS) — Video of a young black girl walking dejectedly out of a New Orleans area Catholic school in tears after being told her hair extensions violated school policy prompted thousands of social media comments Tuesday — many expressing puzzlement or outrage.
Some accused Christ the King Middle School of racism, including social activist Shaun King on Twitter and rapper T.I. on Instagram.
Sixth-grader Faith Fennidy’s brother Steven posted Facebook video showing her leaving school with relatives. Her braids are pulled back and hang slightly below the neckline.
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Fennidy’s post says there are practical reasons for the hair extensions.
“Extensions make the hair easier to maintain. It allows my sister to have access to the swimming pool without having to get her hair Re-done every night,” his post said. He said the school wouldn’t compromise.
The family told WWL-TV they are considering a discrimination lawsuit.
“This policy was communicated to all parents during the summer and again before the first day of school,” Archdiocese of New Orleans Schools Superintendent RaeNell Houston said in a statement to media. “Furthermore, the school leadership worked with families as needed to ensure compliance.”
The Anti-Defamation League, South Central Region and the Urban League of Louisiana issued a joint statement late Tuesday voicing concern about the school’s “racially insensitive grooming policy.”
“ADL and the Urban League are deeply troubled by the policy in question as well as the manner in which the school is disciplining students of color under this policy,” the statement said. “The policy shows racial insensitivity and bias by the administration to students and their families.”
The statement said the groups called for the school to revise the policy, withdraw current disciplinary action issued under it and apologize to the affected students. “It should also implement reasonable grooming standards that foster learning while respecting diversity, as well as institute cultural competence and anti-discrimination training for all staff.”
The video shows Faith Fennidy appearing to fight back tears while adults around her can be heard in a brief, contentious discussion. “I don’t want this to happen,” a woman is heard saying. A man who refers to Faith as his daughter curtly replies, “Yes, you do.” Faith slips a pink backpack emblazoned with images of fern leaves and wild animals onto one shoulder and walks out of the building.
Reactions to the Facebook post were largely against the school. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with her hair,” was typical of many.
Some posters acknowledged the private school’s authority to make such rules, but were still critical of the policy.
Others accused the school of targeting black hair styles.
“Let’s be clear — this is Christianity as White Supremacy,” King’s tweet read.