Wake Schools could enact CROWN Act to acknowledge hairstyles and their cultural significance

DeJuan Hoggard Image
Tuesday, March 12, 2024
Wake Schools considers policy against hairstyle discrimination
"This (CROWN Act) is truly about setting policy for the culture we'd like to see."

CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Inside the Wake County Public School Systems boardroom Tuesday, the district's policy committee met with the board to address an update to the student handbook related to student hairstyles.

The committee proposed updating district language to include a student's hair length and the type of protected hairstyles, often worn by Black students and other ethnic minorities.

The policy committee included verbiage from Durham Public Schools in its presentation to WCPSS staff and added additional language.

WCPSS' current policy proposal would read:

Students may dress and style their hair for school in a manner that expresses their individuality and culture, including length, braids, locs, twists, tight coils or curls, cornrows, Bantu knots, afros, geles, and headwraps. Certain programs may have more restrictive requirements for hairstyles, including NCHSAA and ROTC programs, which require signatures of students and parents consenting to these restrictions on grooming and dress.

"I believe that hair should be the least of our worries," said Garner hairstylist Maya Anderson. "Especially in adolescence, you don't want to start off on the foot of, 'Well, your hair doesn't fit the mold of what we're looking for. So you know, you can't be successful in this field or that field."

Anderson, a graduate of Enloe High School, has several teenage clients who are often focused on the attention their hairstyles attract from teachers and peers.

"They want to feel like they don't have to do all of those necessary steps to be seen or heard or respected. And they would like to be able to come into school with their hair in their face, a part down the middle, in a ponytail or without someone having something to say about, you know, their appearance," Anderson said.

Anderson's client, who did not provide her name, included a thought in the conversation that hairstyles ought to be left up to parents. And that a student's hair is not indicative of how well they will perform in the classroom.

"My intelligence is not in my hair," the woman said.

Board members Tyler Swanson and Monika Johnson-Hostler were among the most vocal in Tuesday's meeting.

"As a teacher, I never wrote up a student for being noncompliant because of their hair," said Swanson. He said he believes the passage of the CROWN Act for WCPSS would be positive for the district.

"I think this is going to be a great start in the right direction," he said.

Tuesday, board members made it quite clear that this proposal was not the result of any data that exists or in reaction to a specific event.

"This (CROWN Act) is truly about setting policy for the culture we'd like to see," said Johnson-Hostler.

Currently, the board acknowledged that the North Carolina High School Athletic Association and JROTC programs may have hairstyle policies that are specific to their guidelines.

Already recognized at the federal level and by Raleigh and Durham, the CROWN Act has yet to be passed by North Carolina lawmakers.

Senate Bill 168 and House Bill 143 are stalled on their respective floors.

"Hair is such an intimate ... part of your body," said Keiyonna Dubashi, executive director for Raleigh-based nonprofit Profound Ladies. "There's so much intimacy that is tied to it. And so ... even to have it targeted is just something that no one should have to go through."

The committee will continue to work on language before presenting it to the board again.