Original article appeared in the Daily Mail.
by erica tempesta
Parents of a five-year-old kindergarten student have accused their son’s Catholic school of racial discrimination after his mother was asked to take him home because of his ‘distracting’ haircut.
In December, Jalyn Broussard, who was one of five African-American students at Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Belmont, California, was excited to show off his ‘modern fade’ haircut, where his hair was longer in the middle and shorter on the sides. However, 30 minutes into the school day, Jalyn’s mother Mariana was asked to pick him up because his hairstyle was in violation of the school’s policy.
But according to Mrs Broussard, other white and Asian students were wearing similar hairstyles without ever being reprimanded. And the Broussard family have since filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
Different opinions: Jalyn Broussard, who was one of five African-American students at Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Belmont, California, was told that his ‘modern fade’ haircut (pictured) violated school policy
Mrs Broussard noted that school principal Teri Grosey had complimented Jalyn and his brother Noah, who had shaved his entire head, on their new haircuts that morning before she was asked to take her younger son home.
After receiving the call from Immaculate Heart of Mary School about Jalyn’s haircut, Mrs Broussard told Yahoo that she ‘looked online and reread the haircut policy to make sure we were talking about the same language’.
And while the school’s handbook banned extreme hairstyles including hair dye, highlights, extensions, faux hawks, tails and spiking, among other things, Mrs Broussard did not believe Jalyn’s haircut was disobeying the policy.
When she called Mrs Grosey, who maintained that Jalyn’s hair was similar to a faux hawk, which is forbidden, Mrs Broussard explained that her son’s hair is short, neat and tapered – as required by school policy.
Mrs Broussard requested that Jalyn be allowed to stay in school for the day; Mrs Grosey relented but allegedly told the mom: ‘In these situations, it is best that the child be removed from the school environment so that he does not unduly influence the student body.’
The concerned mother said Jalyn left school that day feeling self-conscious about his haircut because all of the other kids were talking about it. Despite them disagreeing with Mrs Grosey, Mr and Mrs Broussard shaved Jalyn’s head so he would be able to attend a Christmas concert that night and his class holiday party the next day.
Double standard: Jalyn’s mother Mariana, pictured reading to her son, has claimed that other white and Asian students wore similar haircuts without being reprimanded or asked to leave school
However, Jalyn was left sobbing by the entire ordeal because he ‘didn’t want to be bald for Christmas’.
The next day Mrs Broussard went to meet with Mrs Grosey to speak with her about Jalyn’s hair.
‘I brought pictures of Michael Strahan and other African-Americans who had the style. I said: “Maybe you aren’t familiar with African-American styles, since my son is only one of five African-American kids at the school,”‘ she said, noting that she was not trying to get them to change the policy.
Mrs Broussard explained that there were many other students whose hair was longer in the middle than on the sides, but perhaps it was less noticeable because their hair was ‘straight and fell to the side’ where Jalyn’s curly hair stays in place.
‘Just because their hair lays down doesn’t mean there should be different enforcement of the rules. I was trying to say “maybe you aren’t aware, let’s talk about it and have a dialogue”. She wasn’t open to that,’ Mrs Broussard added.
She admitted that she had been willing to let the entire disagreement go until an eighth grade student, who is Asian-American and the son of a part-time teacher at the school, showed up a haircut very similar to Jalyn’s old style following winter break.
She said she thought that like her son he too would be asked to change his hair style, but claimed that the next day he performed a reading at mass, in front of the entire church and school. When Mrs Broussard brought up the disparity in discipline with Mrs Grosey, she allegedly called the boy’s haircut a ‘modern crew cut’ and it was accepted because it was tapered in the back.
Taking action: The Broussard family, who took Jalyn and their older son Noah out of the school in January, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights last week
Heartbreaking moment: Mrs Broussard said Jalyn cried last year when they had to shave his head in order to comply with school policy because he ‘didn’t want to be bald for Christmas’
But according to Mrs Broussard, the only difference between the two cuts was the texture of the hair.
‘Her explanation was that Jalyn’s haircut was just more noticeable, but he doesn’t have the same options as kids with straight hair,’ she said. ‘That’s not inclusive of different ethnic backgrounds and different hair textures.’
Jennifer Bezoza, an attorney for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, who is representing the Broussards, told Yahoo that they think this is a ‘clear case of race discrimination’.
In January, Mr and Mrs Broussard pulled both their sons out of the school, and in the complaint filed last week, the family seeks tuition reimbursement for both their children, which is approximately $16,000 in total, as well as cultural sensitivity training for the school’s staff and improvements in Immaculate Heart of Mary School’s anti-discrimination and discipline policies.
However, Larry Kamer, a spokesperson for The Archdiocese of San Francisco, told Daily Mail Online the Broussards’ claims are a ‘few steps away from the facts’.
Mr Kamer said that the haircut policy at Immaculate Heart of Mary School is ‘pretty explicit’ and the Broussards ‘like all parents sign a handbook that acknowledges and accepts that policy’.
He also noted that it is a uniform school and there are expectations about dress and appearance.
Difference of opinion: Larry Kamer, a spokesperson for The Archdiocese of San Francisco, said other students with similar haircuts received the same treatment as Jalyn, who is pictured playing in his living room,
According to Mr Kamer, Jalyn’s parents were informed that his haircut went against the rules and the next day he had style that was in policy. While there were discussions back and forth, Mr Kamer said Jalyn was ‘never kicked out’. His parents took him out of school in January and they didn’t hear anything in the intervening months until they were notified about the complaint.
And as for the eighth grader who had a haircut like Jalyn’s, Mr Kamer said he had received the ‘exact same treatment’, noting that ‘the next day he had a haircut within policy’.
Mr Kamer also said that another image of a boy with ‘black spiky hair’ that is being shared by the media was ‘taken during Halloween when kids are encouraged to dress up’.
‘To suggest that was a double standard is misleading,’ he said.
Mr Kamer said they are taking complaint ‘very seriously’ while adding: ‘This policy is enforced consistently and fairly and it is clear. Parents agree in writing to abide by it.’
He also noted the school works to create a tolerant and diverse environment community for its students and ‘feels terrible about how this has all played out’.
‘Much of what we had seen in the last two days have made for interesting reading, but it is not true,’ Mr Kamer said.
As for Jalyn, Mrs Broussard told Yahoo that he is looking forward to going back to his new public school, Fox Elementary School, in the fall.