School backs off threat to expel student for natural hairstyle

A Florida school has backed off its threat to expel a student for refusing to change her natural hairstyle.

Vanessa VanDyke, a 12-year-old student at Faith Christian Academy in Orlando, Fla., told WKMG recently that administrators had told her she had one week to change her hair or leave the school.

VanDyke said she did not plan to change her hair because it is part of her identity.

“It says that I’m unique,” she told WKMG. “First of all, it’s puffy and I like it that way. I know people will tease me about it because it’s not straight. I don’t fit in.”

The student said she has endured bullying because of her hair, but wasn’t singled out by the school until her family complained about other students teasing her, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The school said VanDyke’s hair was a “distraction.” According to the academy’s parent-student handbook, “hair must be a natural color and must not be a distraction.” Examples listed as distractions include mohawks and rat tails.

The school issued a statement Tuesday saying they were no longer planning to expel VanDyke, and that “we’re not asking her to put products in her hair or cut her hair. We’re asking her to style her hair within the guidelines according to the school handbook.”

VanDyke’s mother, Sabrina Kent, said the school is placing the blame on her daughter, rather than on the bullies. She said at this time, VanDyke has no plans to change her hair.

“I’m going to fight for my daughter,” Kent told WKMG. “If she wants her hair like that, she will keep her hair like that. There are people out there who may think that natural hair is not appropriate. She is beautiful the way she is.”

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