Boy Suspended for 2 Weeks for Wearing Hair in Braids
Once again, a child of color is being persecuted via a school dress code. Hope Cozart, the mother of 11-year-old Maddox Cozart, says her son has been forced to in-school suspension and is required to complete his schoolwork in a cubicle because of his braided hairstyle.
Maddox, whose father is Black and mother is white, told his mom he was interested in exploring more of his African heritage, especially hairstyles.
“We try to teach our kids about all of their culture. Black, white, Native-American, everything,” Cozart told KCENTV. “They like to explore their culture. We looked at African tribes and how they braid their hair up. Bantu knots and all the meanings of all that.”
Maddox was given in-school suspension on April 5 because of his braided hairstyle and has been there every day since. According to a letter sent to the Troy Independent School District by the McCoy Law Firm, the attorneys representing the Cozarts, “Maddox was then given in-school suspension (‘ISS’) on April 5, 2021, based on his hairstyle. Maddox has since been given ISS every subsequent school day as a result of his hairstyle. This action has denied Maddox an education equal to that of the other students at Raymond Mays Middle School. As Maddox has been placed in a cubicle away from his classmates while on ISS, Maddox has also been denied any real opportunity for socialization, which is critical to any students’ development and education, especially considering the isolation all children have experienced this past year due to the pandemic.”
“I think that their dress code policies are outdated,” attorney Waukeen McCoy told KCENTV. “There’s a lot of Texas independent school districts that have outdated policies which prevent male students from having ponytails, pigtails, buns. It has no legitimate basis at all. It has nothing to do with educating the students. Clearly, to me, it’s discriminatory to his race and his culture.”
Unfortunately for students of color, this type of prejudicial harassment is not an isolated incident. Policing of natural hairstyles has become disgustingly commonplace whether it’s a referee cutting a student athlete’s dreadlocks before a wrestling match or not allowing students with locs to attend their own graduations.
“Dress code has always been about policing the body,” Dr. Christopher Emdin, associate professor of Science Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and author of For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood, told SheKnows last year. “What’s happening right now is that we are pushing back against the concept of policing without purpose or controlling without really good reason, and one of the mechanisms that we use to police and control in schools is dress code and hair styles [rules].”
Dress code rules are not only insensitive but they put on full display the anti-Blackness and racism ingrained in the American education system — a system whose rules put students of color at a disadvantage.
“When young folks are free to be who they are in the classroom, they learn better,” Emdin said. “They’re not consumed by whether or not [they’re acceptable]. They are not worrying about how they are going to be perceived or interpreted. They’re not worried about: am I breaking a rule or am I not? Am I going to anger somebody? And the reality is, when a young person is consumed by how adults are viewing them, based on how the hair grows out of their head, for example, they don’t have the mental space to also learn.”
The Cozarts’ lawyers would like the school board to change its dress code, but the school superintendent told KCENTV on Thursday that no such changes are on the school board agenda at this time.
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