Massachusetts students punished for braided hair extensions

Photo: WBZ/CBS Newspath

MALDEN, Mass. — The Cook twins, Deanna and Mia, have to wear uniforms to the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, and they’re OK with that. What they don’t like is a dress code policy that says they can’t have hair extensions.

“I was really happy to be celebrating my culture because I have white parents and it’s really important to participate in the culture,” Mia said.

The 15-year-olds are two of five siblings adopted by Colleen and Aaron Cook.

They’re upset because when their daughters refused to take out their hair extensions, the school punished them.

“I’m angry, I feel like my children are beautiful,” Colleen Cook said. “They’re black, they should be proud of themselves, I’m very proud of them.”

“So far I’ve received multiple detentions, I am banned from the track team, I can no longer attend Latin club and I’m not allowed to go to any other school events,” Deanna said.

The school released a statement saying:

“The specific prohibition of hair extensions, which are expensive and could serve as a differentiating factor between students from dissimilar socioeconomic backgrounds, is consistent with our desire to create an educational environment, one that celebrates all that students have in common and minimizes material differences and distractions.”

“The policy specifically discriminates against African-American children as it relates to hair extensions,” Aaron Cook said. “You typically do not see Caucasian children with extensions. The fact that it’s in the handbook doesn’t make it a nondiscriminatory policy.”

The Cooks want the policy, which they feel is discriminatory, changed. They’re not alone in their fight; they’ve already recruited help from the ACLU, Anti-Defamation League and the attorney general’s office.