School suspends Black student for wearing braids


Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 1/14/2020, 11:39 a.m.

A sophomore at Mater Dei High School in Chula Vista who is of mixed race was suspended and told to cut his braided hair last week because it was out of compliance with school dress code, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune

He was given an in-school suspension for “arguing and insubordination” after he questioned the order, said his mother, Melissa Harden. Harden’s son missed three days of school because he would not cut his hair, which was above the collar but below his eyebrows.

“My son has the right to not cut his hair. He has beautiful hair,” Harden said. After the incident was publicized on social media, school leadership spoke with Harden Monday afternoon and told her they will allow the student to return to school on Tuesday and that he does not have to make any changes to his hair. The school also is removing the suspension from his record.

Mater Dei is a Catholic high school in Chula Vista where yearly tuition costs $17,080. School leaders referred all questions about the incident to the Diocese of San Diego for comment. “I think everything is resolved to everybody’s satisfaction,” diocese spokesman Kevin Eckery said. Mater Dei’s is one of several cases around the country in which Black students were told to cut their hair or were punished for the way their hair looks.

In July, California became the first U.S. stat to ban racial discrimination based on hairstyle and hair texture in all public K-12 schools and workplaces. The law went into effect on Jan. 1. California’s new law does not apply to private school students like Harden’s son, however.