An African-American student in Florida says she was issued a warning to change her Afro hair or face expulsion from the private school she attends.
After being bullied by peers for her hair, 12-year old Vanessa VanDyke reported the harassment to school officials. Instead of reprimanding the bullies, they threatened to expel her. VanDyke says that administrators at Faith Christian Academy in Orlando told her that her hair is a distraction.
The academy has a dress code which includes rules on how students are permitted to wear their hair. According to the student handbook "hair must be a natural color and must not be a distraction." The handbook lists examples of banned styles, which include mohawks, shaved designs and rat tails.
News of Vanessa's experience spread quickly online. Many expressed support for Vanessa and her parents, who have vowed to keep her hair in its natural state. Others defended the school, arguing that the school has a right to make its own rules because it is a private institution.
Parallels were drawn between Vanessa VanDyke and 7-year old Tiana Parker from Tulsa, Okla. Parker, pictured below, was sent home from school for wearing her hair in dreadlocks. After national outcry, the school apologized and changed its policy.