Butler HS suspends controversial hair policy

Butler HS suspends controversial hair policy
Some parents at the meeting were upset they did not get a chance to speak. (Source: Dale Mader, WAVE 3 News)
Some parents at the meeting were upset they did not get a chance to speak. (Source: Dale Mader, WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A meeting about a school's hair policy turned emotional and explosive Friday, when Butler Traditional High School suspended its controversial hair policy that banned cornrows, dreadlocks and twists.

The school-based decision-making council met briefly on Friday to discuss the policy after receiving complaints and criticism. The meeting lasted only a few minutes and parents and students who were there were furious that they didn't get to voice their opinions about the policy was put into place years ago, but got attention on Thursday.

Now when school starts, students will be able to wear their hair however they want.

"We want to make sure we get this right," Butler principal William Allen said. "I think it's important for us, moving forward, to make sure we take an open, honest look at this policy."

Following the meeting there were outbursts by a number of parents who attended, but did not have a chance to speak. Butler High parent and State Rrepresentative elect Attica Scott brought the school's hair policy to light and was outraged at how the meeting unfolded.

"I can't believe you did it," Scott said. "I would love to hear from students first. I would love to hear from the students first, because you all didn't have to be here, but you showed up, so we need to listen to the young people who have something to say."

Students then began to speak out.

"That's our sense of style," Butler student Jaela Story said. "We don't go around and wear our hair flat-ironed all the time."

"That's our way of life," fellow Butler student Shayla Ford added. "Because if I don't have my twists, my cornrows, if I don't have my hair braided, I get complaints from the kid behind me that he can't see the board."

It was clear there was also some confusion on whether the hair policy was just for boys, or for everyone. Some say they got conflicting information. However, some parents and students feel that a policy like this shouldn't be in place, regardless of gender.

"We feel attacked because we are African-Americans. We wear Afros every day. We wear cornrows every day," Butler parent Tamara Gullion said. "At the end of the day it is discrimination. I don't care how they try to put it, how they try to rewrite it."

Thirty-five percent of students at Butler are African-American.

Allen said some parents had concerns that the dress code policy was unclear last year. He said the school will have an opportunity for parents and students to give their input on the issue at a later time. That meeting date has not been announced.
 
Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens also attended Friday's meeting. Hargens said she understood that the issue was an emotional one, and brought up JCPS's strategic plan Vision 20-20.

"One of the values is diversity," she said. "It says our differences are our strengths, they are assets of the whole. One of the things I heard Principal Allen say was that one of the things that makes Butler really great is diversity."

All JCPS students head back to class Aug. 10.

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