State senators respond to outrage over charter school hair policy

From KTUL in Tulsa

From KTUL in Tulsa

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Sen. Jabar Shumate and state Rep. Kevin Matthews issued statements today in response to national outrage over a Tulsa charter school’s policy that prohibits hairstyles that many consider to be appropriate and natural.

The Deborah Brown Community school policy prohibits “dreadlocks, afros, mohawks, and other faddish styles.” After the school enforced the policy on a 7-year-old girl with dreadlocks, her father pulled the girl out of the charter school. News outlets covered the story, leading to national outrage in response to the school policy.

An Ohio school that provoked similar outrage for their policy regarding hairstyles chose to change the policy.

Matthews, the vice chair of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus, said he plans to facilitate a discussion of the policy.

“We are working to bring the school administrators and board members together with the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus members to coordinate a review of these policies,” said Matthews, D-Tulsa. “Although direct legislative action is not an option of addressing the issue in the short term, school policies can be addressed, reviewed, or changed by the Deborah Brown Community School’s internal board.”

The Deborah Brown Community School has a track record of academic excellence, Matthews said.

“The Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus values education as one of our top priorities,” Matthews said. “The Deborah Brown Community School has a proven track record for academic success, but we do not want their reputation marred by controversy that could be resolved by all parties having a meaningful dialogue.”

Shumate said he is concerned about the 7-year-old girl’s self-esteem.

“Our hearts go out to the parents and family of this 7-year-old promising student,” said Shumate, D-Tulsa. “We don’t want any child to feel like their educational opportunities are being infringed upon.”

Pittman, the chair of the caucus, said she wants to review the policies to ensure they are appropriate.

“We always want to promote culturally and linguistically sensitive policies because we believe all children can learn,” said Pittman, D-Oklahoma City.