- Kieana Hooper's 18-year-old daughter Kienjanae, a senior at Gladewater High School in Gladewater, Texas, was told she couldn't attend a graduation ceremony unless she removed her braids.
- Kienjanae, or KJ, wears her hair in long braids, and some of them are dyed red.
- Gladewater ISD Superintendent Sedric Clark said KJ will still earn her diploma, even if she doesn't participate in the ceremony, according to reports from NBC News and the Longview News-Journal.
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A woman in Texas says her daughter's high school won't let her participate in a graduation ceremony because of her braided hair.
Kieana Hooper's 18-year-old daughter Kienjanae, a senior at Gladewater High School in Gladewater, Texas, was told she couldn't attend a graduation ceremony unless she covered her hair, or changed its color and took out her braids, according to reports from NBC News and the Longview News-Journal.
Kienjanae, or KJ, wears her hair in long braids, and part of her hair is dyed red.
"You're basing a graduation and diploma on hair," Hooper, 44, told NBC News. "Which is totally ridiculous with what's going on in this world."
According to Gladewater Independent School District's student handbook, students are required to keep their hair "clean, trimmed from the eyes and well groomed."
"Boys with hair longer than collar length shall wear a ponytail pinned up to within collar length. Facial hair shall be neatly trimmed. Hair coloring shall resemble a natural color," the policy says.
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Gladewater ISD Superintendent Sedric Clark told the News-Journal the school's principal, Cathy Bedair, was initially concerned about the color of KJ's hair. In the following days, she called Hooper again.
"The principal called the parent yesterday and said she wants to make sure KJ walks and asked her to put it up under her cap, and the mother refused it," Clark told the outlet.
Hooper told the outlets her daughter won't take part in graduation because she will not remove the braids or put them under a cap during the ceremony.
Clark said that while KJ might not receive her diploma in person, KJ had completed all state graduation standards and will still earn her diploma.
Hair-based discrimination against natural styles, including dreadlocks and braids, can target black communities, where such styles have cultural importance and historical significance. Because of this, banning such styles — or banning the length of such styles — can perpetuate harmful and racist stereotypes about hair while also determining what is seen as a "professional" haircut.
KJ plans to attend Tyler Junior College in the fall, with plans of becoming a labor and delivery nurse, the News-Journal reported. At Gladewater she played sports, was involved in the National Honors Society and other groups, and was voted "best personality" in her class, according to the report.
She told the News-Journal that she knew of other students who faced similar problems with school administration.
"A lot of other people have told me they have moved from Gladewater because of it, because they can let white girls dye their hair, bleach their hair, whatever, but when you see a black girl do it, you have to go to (in-school suspension) until your hair is changed," she said. "We haven't been in school since March, and I decided to do something different. I wore it for my senior pictures at the school and in the parade, and no one said anything about it. Nothing was said until now."
- Read more:
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- From Lizzo to Oprah, here are 17 stars who have shared their natural hair journey with the world
- 2 black teens were suspended for wearing their hair in dreadlocks, and now their mothers are suing the school district
- A Texas student grew out his hair to donate to his sick sister. He said the principal told him to cut it or leave.
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