North Florida Christian, a private school in Tallahassee, Florida, has found itself in a hairy situation after the school administration asked an 11th-grader to change her hairstyle.
Jenesis Johnson, 17, who is an African American, has worn her hair in an afro on and off since seventh grade and daily for the past seven months. However, one of her teachers suddenly accosted her in the class and asked her how long she planned to “rock” the hairstyle. She said it was unkempt and needed to be “fixed,” right in front of her peers.
Johnson thought that was the end of the conversation but she was wrong.
Two weeks later, the senior student was summoned to assistant principal Lynn Burgess’s office, who said, “Your hair is extreme and faddish and out of control. It's all over the place,” according to Johnson.
Moreover, the woman also said her hair was against the school’s handbook (which dictates the kind of styles students are allowed to wear) and was a distraction to other students.
But Johnson said, "In every class I sit in the back so it won't cause a distraction.” She also believes her case is less about what’s written in the school’s rule book and more about racism.
"It hurts me," she told WCTV. "It's hurting me. For my people behind me, the younger ones, they're going to have hair like me. Why can't they wear their natural hair?"
Lisa Johnson, her mother, said, “You might say that it didn't fit the handbook. But I saw, and what she heard is a woman telling her that she's not pretty; her hair does fit society.”
"I wanted to counteract what was told to her and let her know that, you are so beautiful. Your hair is also,” she added.
Natural hair is an integral part of black history.
In the 1700s, white people used to call black hair “wool” to dehumanize their slaves. In 1865, slavery ended, but white people continued to look at black people who donned natural hair as someone who is unwilling to adjust well to the society. “Good” hair became the prerequisite for entering schools, churches and business networks.
Seems like not much has changed since the Jim Crow era.
When asked by local reporters, the school declined to comment on the story. Johnson was allowed to finish her term, but according to WCTV, the school has threatened to reimburse her next semester’s tuition fee — that means expelling her — if she doesn’t “fix” her hair.