Parents Rally Around Girls Prohibited From Wearing African Headwear

A group of young women in North Carolina decided to wear geles (head wraps) to honor their culture during Black History Month, but they were met with threats of discipline from their school.

The group donned the wraps as an expression of pride, but administrators at the School for Creative Studies in Durham, according to the girls, told them they were violating the school’s dress code and explained that continuing to wear them would result in suspension.

The Root’s Janelle Harris writes that the young ladies were told to wear their geles so that their hair could be seen or remove them. The school’s policy states that no caps, hats, hoods, sweat bands, or other headwear may be worn inside the school building. There is no reference in the guidelines that mention garments worn based on cultural tradition.

Dosali Reed-Bandele, whose daughter is an 11th-grader at the school, said:

“It says to me symbolically that our girls—and our boys, as well—have to alter not only their attire but their whole selves in order to seem less disruptive or offensive. This is utterly ridiculous, and I am tired of those messages bombarding our babies day in and day out.”

The article’s author writes that strict enforcement falls heavily on “this particular” segment of students. She continues that it is a cycle of inequitable standards, which is also a tradition.

The students were also told they were excluding other students at the school. Ms. Harris says this was because being proud of being black interferes with the ability of others to be proud of their variety of nonblack.

The young women organized a mass demonstration on Monday to encourage support from the community. Protesters arrived, many in geles, and called for a change of opinion among administrators. They asked why, especially at a school that is focused on creative learning, its leaders want to muffle cultural pride.

Parents also arrived in geles to demonstrate against the administration’s decision. Afiya Carter, mother of a 15-year-old student at the school, told WTVD-TV:

“This is about supporting these young people and letting them know that their cultural expression is something to be valued, and value other people’s cultural expressions.”

A Durham Public Schools spokesperson said that city schools do not allow headgear, and the young women involved were asked to remove their geles, but that no one was threatened with suspension, reports Esther Crain for Yahoo!

Superintendent Dr. Bert L’Homme stated that a committee is reviewing the Code of Conduct and making suggestions for improvements. Meanwhile, students were permitted to wear their geles on Monday, the day of the protest, as a cultural example for Black History Month.

Principal Renee Price asked the students to remove the cultural headdress, says Mario Boone for WNCN-TV. Cimarron Reed-Bandele, a parent, said she was told the students were directed to remove the geles because completely covering their heads could create an area where a weapon could be hidden.

DPS explained that students are not permitted to wear head coverings except for a religious or medical reasons. School officials said the girls did not get permission before wearing geles.

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