Worker cut student’s hair after 7-year-old asked, Michigan school says. ‘Unacceptable’

Dawson White
·4 min read

A Michigan school district has responded after a dad says an employee cut his 7-year-old daughter’s hair without his permission.

Last month, Jurnee Hoffmeyer arrived home from Ganiard Elementary in Mount Pleasant looking different than when she’d left — hair on one side of her head had been chopped off, the Associated Press reported.

Jurnee explained to her dad, Jimmy Hoffmeyer, that another student had cut her hair while they were on a bus, according to the outlet.

Hoffmeyer took Jurnee, who is biracial, to a salon where a stylist tried to fix the cut into an asymmetrical style, but the next day, Jurnee arrived home from school with the other side cut as well, the AP reported.

Photos posted to Facebook show Jurnee’s hair — which had once been long and curly — cropped close to her head.

“She was crying,” Hoffmeyer told the AP. “She was afraid of getting in trouble for getting her hair cut.”

Jurnee told her dad a school staff member had done the haircut, according to the outlet.

Hoffmeyer said he initially couldn’t get a hold of the school and ultimately contacted police after no one answered, USA Today reported. Mount Pleasant cops confirmed to the newspaper that they’d talked to Hoffmeyer, but that he hadn’t made a police report.

He eventually talked to a school assistant who advised him the principal wouldn’t be available to speak with him until after spring break, according to the outlet. Hoffmeyer said he heard from the principal on April 5, and the administrator explained the incident had gone on the employee’s report, but that the principal didn’t have the authority to do anything else.

About 45 minutes later, Hoffmeyer said he received a call from Mount Pleasant Public Schools superintendent Jennifer Verleger, who offered to send Jurnee an apology by mail, USA Today reported.

On Tuesday, Verleger sent a letter — which has since been posted online — to parents explaining that the district planned to “conduct a full review” of the incident.

Verleger said the girl had asked another student to cut her hair, adding that the student removed scissors from a classroom and cut the girl’s hair on the bus. The principal met with both students after the fact.

Verleger went on to say that the girl was unhappy with the way her hair looked and asked a school library employee to fix it.

“Rather than declining this request or consulting with the student’s parents or school administrators, the library employee — who is also a cosmetologist — agreed to even out the student’s hair to make her feel better,” Verleger said in the letter. “She brought in professional shears and special barrettes. Our preliminary review shows the student’s teacher was also aware the library employee was planning to cut the student’s hair.”

Verleger said early information suggests the girl’s teacher was also aware the library employee planned to cut the girl’s hair.

“Regardless of their good intentions, these actions are unacceptable and show a lack of judgment on the part of our two employees,” she said. “Both employees have admitted their actions and apologized. Both are being reviewed for further disciplinary actions in accordance with our school policies and procedures. I have personally apologized to the family on behalf of the school district.”

Hoffmeyer said the classmate and employee who cut Jurnee’s hair are both white, according to Michigan Live. Hoffmeyer is Black and white, and Jurnee’s mother is white.

Hoffmeyer reached out to the National Parents Union earlier this month.

The NPU describes itself as a “network of highly effective parent organizations and grassroots activists across the country that is united behind a set of common goals and principles to channel the power of parents.”

Christina Laster, NPU director of policy and legislation, released a statement in response to the school’s letter, explaining the organization was standing behind the Hoffmeyer family.

Laster said Jurnee loved her hair and didn’t ask for a haircut from the school, adding that “placing blame on” the girl isn’t “the best way to offer remorse and accountability.”

She said that “the Hoffmeyer family is unrelentingly pursuing whatever is in their civil, criminal and federal right and legal abilities to pursue.”

The group is also petitioning the Biden administration to support CROWN Act legislation at the federal level.

The CROWN Act — which stands for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair — seeks to ban hair discrimination and has been adopted in several states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington, Live reported.

Hoffmeyer said he has transferred Jurnee to Vowles Elementary School, which she attended last year before redistricting, according to USA Today.

Read next:

‘Discriminatory’ dress codes must end at hundreds of Texas school districts, ACLU says

‘This is a racial issue.’ Boy punished for hairstyle at Texas school, mom says