by nigel roberts
Mariana Broussard says Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Belmont, Calif., is discriminatory and culturally unaware.
Jalyn Broussard went to kindergarten one day proudly sporting a new hairstyle. But his modern fade quickly raised eyebrows among administrators at his Belmont, Calif., Catholic school. Officials called the 5-year-old’s mother to pick him up because his haircut violated the school’s standards. She was outraged.
The school and Jalyn’s family reached a stalemate. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the family filed a complaint, with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, last week accusing Immaculate Heart of Mary School of discriminating against their African-American child.
Mariana Broussard, Jalyn’s mother, said in the complaint that the principal, Teri Grosey, told her that Jalyn’s haircut was distracting and violates the school’s hairstyle policy, according to the Mercury News.
Broussard said Jalyn felt embarrassed and unfairly singled out. “He knew exactly what it was about—because of how his hair as an African-American looked,” she added, according to the newspaper.
In her discussions with school officials, Broussard said she showed the principal a photo of former NFL star and talk show host Michael Strahan, who has same haircut. She also noted the difference between a “modern fade” and the “faux hawk” cut that the school bans. Furthermore, Broussard said she pointed out students of other ethnicities at the school wearing the same hairstyle as Jalyn does.
Grosey did not respond to phone calls from the Mercury News. And the Archdiocese of San Francisco declined to comment because it had not read the complaint. However, a spokesman told the newspaper, “School policy on hairstyles is very explicit and clear. Parents acknowledge and accept that policy.”
Broussard seeks about $16,000 for tuition reimbursement for Jalyn and his brother, who was a second-grader at the school. She also wants the staff and administrators to have cultural and sensitivity training. Her sons now attend public school, where she says there’s more cultural awareness, the Mercury News reports.