ROBESON COUNTY, N.C. — Some North Carolina families are upset after a charter school told their sons they couldn’t return to class after spring break unless they got a haircut — which parents say is discriminatory against their Native American heritage.
Mia Chavis and her son Edward live in Robeson County, but Edward goes to a charter school in Whiteville, which is in neighboring Columbus County. Chavis said Edward’s hair was in compliance last year, but this year things have changed for many boys at the school.
Edward, who is 7 years old, attends Classical Charter Schools of America at the Whiteville campus. Six-year-old Logan Lomboy attends the Leland campus in Brunswick County.
Their mothers said their sons’ long hair is part of their Native American heritage.
“Our culture in the Southeast has been extremely strong,” said Ashley Lomboy, Logan’s mother. “We’re in a revitalization of that culture. Hair growth is a part of that.”
The family said administrators at the school don’t see it that way.
“To strip that away after so much has been stripped away from tribes in the Southeast,” she said.
For the past year and a half, Edward and Logan’s hair was kept in a bun or ponytail to comply with the school’s policy of keeping hair off the collar and ears.
Chavis said she received a call March 14 informing her that those hairstyles were no longer accepted. Lomboy said school officials told her and other parents the kids’ hairstyles were faddish after the school added buns and ponytails to the list of banned styles.
Both mothers were told to file a grievance with the school regarding the policy, which was denied.
“I’m not cutting his hair,” said Abby Gate, mother of 6-year-old Rafaelle. “He said, ‘I’m not going back there,’ and I said ‘come on, but it’s time for school,’ and he said ‘no, they said I have to cut my hair.'”
Gate said she’s asked for a formal notice, or anything in writing, from the school board that her son was violating a policy. She said those requests have been denied.
If the three mothers don’t receive a favorable response from the school before spring break ends on March 29, all three say they will be taking their children out of the schools.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the policy violates First Amendment rights.
Classical Charter Schools of America provided a statement to Nexstar’s WBTW that was published online March 21. The statement says a review is underway and will be considered by the board on April 27.
“The ACLU seems more interested in creating controversy than resolving it,” Baker A. Mitchell, president and CEO of The Roger Bacon Academy, which owns the charter schools, said in a statement. “Our schools have procedures for dealing with matters such as these.”
“Instead of respecting the process, the ACLU has jumped in with threats and accusations that drive people apart, rather than bring them together,” the statement continues.
The charter school posted its full grooming policy online.