ACLU Files Formal Complaint Against Massachusetts School That Punished Girls For Wearing Braids

Last week many of us were horrified to learn that girls at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Massachusetts had faced harsh punishment and possible suspension for wearing braided extensions.

According to Colleen Cook, her twin 15-year-old daughters, Deanna and Mya, who attend the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, have had to endure detentions and are now being threatened with suspension over their hairstyle.  Cook told the Boston Globe:

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“They teach them at a very high academic level and I appreciate that, and that’s why they go to the school…But unfortunately, they don’t have any sensitivity to diversity at all.”

Here’s what Mystic Valley reps have to say:

“One important reason for our students’ success is that we purposefully promote equity by focusing on what unites our students and reducing visible gaps between those of different means,” the school said in a statement, according to the Globe. “Our policies, including those governing student appearance and attire, foster a culture that emphasizes education rather than style, fashion, or materialism. Our policy on hair extensions, which tend to be very expensive, is consistent with, and a part of, the educational environment that we believe is so important to our students’ success.”

Cook believes that the policy against hair extensions and braids directly impacts black students more than any other race, and should take into account students who wear braids as a part of their culture, not simply as a materialistic fashion statement. The twins, by the way, are great students.  Mya is on the National Honor Society, with a 3.79 GPA, while Deanna maintains a 3.3. GPA. 

According to the Boston Globe,

The school’s student handbook states that hair extensions are prohibited, as are hair coloring, makeup, nail polish, and tattoos.

Cook said she understands a policy that bans nail polish and hair color, rules that would affect children equally. But she said the policy against hair extensions seems aimed at black children.

Cook said her daughters had worn braids before and never encountered objections from the school. Administrators suddenly cracked down in late April, after students returned from spring break, she said.

“They marched black and biracial children down the hall” to inspect their hair, she said.

Cook said her daughters, who declined to remove their braids, have been forced to serve detention an hour before school starts each day, and nearly an hour afterward. They also have been kicked out of after-school sports and banned from the prom, she said. The actions have been particularly hard on Deanna, a runner on the school’s track team.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has filed a formal  complaint against Malden’s Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in response to the claims made by Cook and other parents of black or biracial children. According to, CBS News reports. The ACLU filed the complaint Monday with the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“I was really excited to be celebrating my culture because I have white parents and it’s very important to participate in the culture,”

Mya one of the twins told CBS Boston.

Mya and her sister  are two of five siblings adopted by Colleen and Aaron Cook.

The twins’ dad, Aaron Cook, stated

The policy specifically discriminates against African-American children as it relates to hair extensions…You typically do not see Caucasian children with hair extensions. The fact that it’s in the handbook does not make it a non-discriminatory policy.”

CBS reports,

Matthew Cregor, project director at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, said in a letter to the school that the policy may violate federal anti-discrimination law, citing guidelines from the U.S. departments of Justice and Education.

Cregor also went on to suggest that the school’s hiring policies are discriminatory, noting that only one of the school’s 156 teachers are black.

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Well Hello! My name is Lisa and you’ve stumbled upon my own little corner of the world. I’m a lipstick-loving, high heel junkie, mom, and wife. When I’m not here bringing you the latest in beauty, fashion, hot topics, and bits and pieces of my life with my family, you can find me over on youtube swatching lipsticks and sharing my latest natural hairstyles. Make sure you also follow me on Instagram and Snapchat under my brand name Lisa A La Mode. I’m a real person. I promise.

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