Attorney general orders Malden charter school to stop punishing black students for hairstyles





The state attorney general Friday directed a Malden charter school to immediately stop punishing black and biracial students for wearing hairstyles the school said violate its dress code — rules the attorney general deemed discriminatory and unevenly enforced.

In a letter sent to Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, the office of Attorney General Maura Healey said the school’s hair and makeup policy violates state and federal law “by subjecting students of color, especially black students, to differential treatment and thus denying them the same advantages and privileges of public education afforded to other students.”

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Since April, black female students who wear hair extensions have been subjected to detentions and suspensions.

A spokesman for Mystic Valley released a one-line statement from the school’s interim director, Alexander Dan.

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“We are in receipt of the letter from the attorney general’s office, and it will be reviewed by the board of trustees at a meeting that has been called for Sunday night,” Dan said. Previously, Mystic Valley administrators had said extensions could highlight economic differences among students because of the hairstyle’s cost.

The school’s dress code prohibits extensions — additional hair that is woven in — citing them as an example of a style that is “distracting” to other students. It also bans hair that is “more than 2 inches in thickness or height,” an apparent reference to Afros most likely to be worn by black students, according to the attorney general’s office.

But parents have said the hairstyles are an important expression of the students’ culture, and decried the school’s crackdown as racist.

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