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Natural black hair.

Kentucky High School Suspends Black Hair Policy After Parent Speaks Out

Kentucky high school suspends “natural hair policy” after parent tweets her child’s disappointment.

Butler Traditional High School, a public secondary school out of Louisville, Kentucky, caught heat after instituting a policy banning black hairstyles.

The “natural hair policy” was designed to dictate the length and aesthetics of such styles as cornrows (which the school called “cornrolls”), dreads, twists, afros and fades.

According to AfroPunk, school officials justified their decision by claiming that “locs and fades are more detrimental to a student’s education than not being allowed to attend class.”

Yes, you read right. It’s ludicrous, I know. And, inarguably wrong. But, then again, you’d have to be in that frame of mind to concoct a “natural hair policy” in the first place.

However, one black parent, Attica Scott, did not take this cultural incompetence lying down. Scott took to Twitter and published a copy of the school document, along with a caption about her daughter’s disappointment over Butler’s willingness to promote cultural insensitivity toward its black students.


School superintendent Donna Hargens has since retracted the school’s position and “expressed a desire to open up dialogue around the subject with parents.” For the present, the school has suspended its policy.

Issues of black hair and aesthetics have long played a crucial role in debates on race in America. It is an element of the question of whether or not blacks should adopt respectability politics to achieve social goals. Films and plays such as Spike Lee’s School Daze and George C. Wolfe’s The Colored Museum offer a tiny glimpse into the complicated ways that Blacks have meditated on these issues.

Related: Looking Unapologetically Black in the Professional World (And 5 Women Rocking It)

The subject is also explored in books like Althea Prince’s The Politics of Black Women’s Hair  and Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharpe’s Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America.

Not even Barack Obama has been immune from politics of racial aesthetics. Think back to the famous photo of the 5-year-black boy, who was in complete awe and fascination that his president’s hair looked and felt like his.

What’s happening at Butler Traditional High School adds even more credence to the belief that, here in America, we have a great deal of work to do in this area of race relations.


Antwan is an educator, cultural critic, actor, and writer for Wear Your Voice Mag (WYV), where he focuses on the dynamics of class, race, gender, politics, and pop culture. Prior to joining the team at WYV, he was an adjunct professor in the African American Studies Department at Valdosta State University in southern Georgia, where he taught African American Literature. He has traveled the U.S. and U.K. showcasing a fifty-five minute, one-person play titled Whitewash, which focuses on the state of black men in the post-civil rights era. Antwan received his B.A. in English and Literature from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and M.A. in African American Studies from University of California, Los Angeles. He is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and NAACP theater nominee.

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