It is untenable in our view for any student, especially a young and impressionable new 5 year old student, to have their access to education disrupted by discriminatory application of school policies and practices. That is exactly what happened to one of our youngest clients at Lawyers’ Committee. Jalyn Broussard, an African-American Kindergarten student in Belmont, CA, was kicked out of class because of his “modern fade” hairstyle.
We filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) on behalf of #LittleJalyn to require full and equal access to education for all students regardless of their cultural differences.
Thirty minutes after dropping Jalyn off to school at Immaculate Heart of Mary School (IHM), the school called Jalyn’s parents to pick him up immediately and not return until his hair was cut, contending that his hairstyle was “extreme” and “distracting” to the learning environment and would “…unduly influence the student body.”
To the contrary, Jalyn’s haircut is known in the African American community as a “modern fade” and is hardly extreme. Further, by comparison, his low fresh cut “modern fade” was hardly an undue influence on a student body population with white and Asian students already sporting a more extreme “hawk” and “faux-hawk” style haircut. The only apparent significant difference for the embarrassing and isolating action taken against Jalyn was the texture of his hair.
Whether a school is public or private, school policies must account for cultural differences and may not single out any student for differential treatment particularly on the basis of the student’s race or ethnicity.
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