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‘Mommy, why are they telling me to cut my hair?’

Source: Editorial Board

Over the past two weeks in Eastern North Carolina, the parents of Edward Chavis, and Logan Lomboy have been fighting to protect their son’s long hair from being cut. Edward, a 7-year-old member of the Lumbee Tribe, and Logan, a 6-year-old member of the Waccamaw Siouan Tribe of North Carolina, are both very active in their culture and spiritual traditions and are proud of their heritage.

Both boys are first graders attending one of the four Classical Charter Schools of America. Classical Charter Schools of America was founded in 1999 with a single school in Leland. Since then, they have expanded to three other schools in Southport, Whiteville and Wilmington, which in total serve more than 2,500 students.

Before February of this year, Edward and Logan had not received any complaints from school officials regarding their long hair, which they both kept in a bun or a long braid. Yet, now both students are being told to cut their hair to be compliant with the charter school’s Parent-Student Handbook

On p. 34 of the handbook, it states:

Boys: Grooming Standards

  • Hair must be neatly trimmed and off the collar, above the eyebrows, not below the top of the ears or eyebrows, and not at an excessive height.
  • Distracting, extreme, radical, or faddish haircuts, hairstyles, and colors are not allowed.
  • No mustaches or beards. Boys must be clean-shaven.

Logan’s mom, Ashley Lomboy was outraged when she was notified by the Classical Charter headmaster and lead administrator that her son needed to cut his hair because it was “faddish”. In her op-ed posted on the ACLU website, she comes to the defense of her son and other Native American students. She writes:

“The definition of faddish according to Webster’s dictionary is “intensely fashionable for a short time.” Native Americans have been wearing their hair long — whether it is for ceremony, in preparation for protecting our tribe, or as part of our tradition — since time immemorial. For more than 1,000 years, the Waccamaw Siouan tribe has and continues to steward the land that the school currently occupies, as well as all the surrounding land of the Cape Fear Region. This is the very definition of long-term and the opposite of a “fad.” For Native American boys and men, wearing their hair long is traditional.”

Both Logan’s and Edwards’ parents have filed grievances with the charter school regarding the policy and have both been denied with no explanation.

Luckily, these families are not fighting alone. They have much support from the American Civil Liberties Union, which has sent a letter to the school, an overwhelming amount of support from their communities, and both the Waccamaw Siouan and Lumbee tribes have signed resolutions supporting the boys. 

So why is this important? Why should we be protecting the rights of these two Native American boys to wear their long hair?

It is actually a bigger issue than that. 

Unfortunately, Edward and Logan are not the only children being targeted by their schools in North Carolina to cut or change the style of their hair. Most often, the parents of other targeted children decide to comply with the school policies or remove their children from the school. 

What can be done to prevent this from happening moving forward?

Let’s be honest, public schools and charter schools across our state will continue to create school policies that are meant to help students “focus more on their studies” but are quite problematic. It is not fair or equitable to ask a student to change their natural hair texture, cut their hair, or style their hair so they can assimilate into the dominant (white) culture. This strips away their humanity and their culture.

This is why the Crown Act needs to be made law in North Carolina. The Crown Act is a law that will prohibit discrimination based on hair style and texture. Also, it will ban companies from denying employment or firing someone because of their natural hair. 

Right now, the Crown Act is in the North Carolina Senate. Hopefully, it will make some movement into law this session. But who knows?

Thankfully for both Edward and Logan, they will be able to complete this school year without needing to cut their hair. However, after the Board of Trustees of Classical Charter schools makes a decision on this policy for the 2023-2024 school year, these two kids along with others may have to find another school so they don’t have to change their hair.

Our children deserve the right to wear their natural hair. No person (child or adult) should be asked to change their hair to comply with white racial standards.

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