The newscaster says that a school policy caused ‘hurt feelings’ with 7 year old Tiana Parker, but personally I think hurt feelings are the last way I would describe this story and the school’s policies. Her parents say that Tiana has straight A’s and a spotless behavior record, but when she was asked to see the school’s administrator for the first time on Aug. 30, she thought of one thing. “I thought I was in trouble,” Tiana said, hanging her head. “Mr. (Millard) Jones said, ‘We don’t allow dreads here.’ I thought I was probably going to have to change my hair.”
She finished out the day in sadly, not knowing it would be her last at Deborah Brown Community School, Tulsa’s first charter school. Her parents who had been told about what happened by the administrator over the phone, were very upset, and told him that they wouldn’t dream of shearing off their little girl’s natural hair to comply with a policy they thought applied only to boys.
Public outrage has gone viral about this downtown Tulsa charter school’s treatment of second-grader Tiana and its categorization of dreadlocks and afros – natural hairstyles for black students – alongside other banned “faddish styles” like mohawks.
As of this writing they are only short less than the 5,000 signatures needed on a Credomobilize.com online petition calling on Deborah Brown Community School to have its charter contract terminated if they don’t apologize to Tiana and her family and change their dress code. See the petition here:
State lawmakers with the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus announced on Friday that they would be intervening by seeking a review of policies at the Langston University-sponsored charter school, located at 2 S. Elgin Ave. Over the weekend, a public relations firm representing the university issued a statement denying any involvement in the school’s policy by Langston and calling for its immediate change.
“After a discussion between Langston University President Kent Smith and the superintendent of the school, Ms. Deborah Brown, it was mutually agreed that the policy in question should be changed,” the statement reads.
“On Monday, Ms. Brown will propose a policy change to the school’s board during a special meeting. Smith said he supports the change in the policy because it reflects an important value at Langston University to respect the individuality of students.”
Tiana’s parents, Terrance and Miranda Parker, have a problem with another of the charter school’s policies – spanking students. They think this could be why they were treated harshly by the administration.
“They act like the kids are their children,” Miranda Parker said. “Maybe that’s OK with other parents, but we are very involved. Very concerned. I wouldn’t sign their waiver. We don’t beat our own kids, so why would we let them?” Corporal punishment is allowed by state law but has been uncommon in public schools since the early 1990s.
The Parkers said sending Tiana home because of her hair was especially odd since it was the end of the second week of school – and because nothing was said back in March when it was first styled into dreadlocks.
“Her teacher, Miss Taylor, told her it was beautiful and she came home and said, Miss Aisha, the principal, ‘says she likes my hair, Mommy,'” Miranda said.
Tiana, along with her older sister Terran, 10, and 3-year-old brother Terrance Jr., have always had their hair kept natural – meaning free of chemical straighteners and relaxers. Before Tiana underwent the 3 1/2-hour process of having her hair styled into dreadlocks , it had been kept in ponytails or loose braids.
Her father Terrance, who is just three months away from finishing barber school, said it might have been possible to change the style if school officials had alerted them to a policy compliance issue right away. But six months later, Tiana’s hair would have to be all but buzzed off to remove the dreads. “I’ve heard people say it’s racist, but it’s definitely not racist because they’re black. It’s discrimination,” Terrance said. “Your hair should not be what you’re judged by. Like Dr. King said, a person should be judged by the content of their character. But if you don’t do what they say, you are out of there. I felt like she was unwanted. That’s exactly how I felt.”
The Parkers said they would like the charter school to apologize but have no interest in returning Tiana there. “She is very happy at Anderson,” Miranda said of the elementary site in Tulsa Public Schools. “They welcomed her and said they loved her hair. She can wear her cowgirl boots with her uniform and we can make up for the academics at home.”
As for Tiana, she doesn’t seem to miss her old school. “They’re mean,” she said.
Please see the video below: