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Georgia school faces backlash for photos of "appropriate" and "inappropriate" hairstyles for black students

California bans discrimination against natural hair
California becomes first state to ban discrimination against natural hair 05:21

An elementary school in Georgia is being criticized after a poster depicting "appropriate" and "inappropriate" hairstyles for students went viral. All of the students featured on the poster are black. 

A parent of a student at Narvie Harris Elementary School shared the photo with her hairstylist Danay Wadlington, who posted it on Facebook. The post quickly went viral, and parents around the country are outraged that only black students were targeted by the school. 

" that's how y'all feel Dekalb County Schools?... Hair is a form of self-expression, shouldn't be a right or wrong way.." Helena wrote on Facebook

🧐🤔🤔 that’s how y’all feel Dekalb County Schools?...Hair is a form of self-expression, shouldn’t be a right...

Posted by Danay Helena on Thursday, August 1, 2019

While some commenters said the school has a right to dictate its dress code, the majority were appalled that the school failed to recognize the inherent bias in the poster. "The administration behind this should be ashamed," one commenter said. 

"It wouldn't have looked so bad if they had included other races," Wadlington, who is African-American, told the New York Times Friday. "Those styles are very popular styles. Who says that our hair is not professional? Our hair is part of us."

Some people on Twitter also noted that, while the school is predominantly made up of black students and administration, that does not negate the inherent bias of the poster. "Black people can still be anti-black," one Twitter user said. "It's still ridiculous, still humiliating. May even be more painful coming from folks who 'should' know better."

The school's dress code prohibits clothing, jewelry, tattoos and piercings that "disrupt the educational process or endanger the health or safety of other students." It does not mention hairstyles. 

"The poster was the result of a miscommunication relating to appearance rules at the school," the school district said in a statement. "Once the district was made aware of the poster, it was immediately removed. In addition, a letter was sent to parents clarifying the school's dress code and appearance policy."

In August of 2018, Louisiana sixth-grader Faith Fennidy was kicked off school grounds because her braided hair violated school policy. A few months later, a wrestling official told New Jersey high school athlete Andrew Johnson he would have to cut his dreadlocks in order to compete, an incident that ignited nationwide outrage.  

In July, Gov. Gavin Newsom made California the first state to ban discrimination against black students and employees over their natural hairstyles. Gov. Andrew Cuomo followed just a few weeks later, signing a similar bill into law. Now, New Jersey lawmakers have introduced similar legislation, and organizations are urging all states to follow. 

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