Mom: Principal apologized for telling daughter to ‘tuck in’ afro
The mother of a Catholic school student who alleged her daughter was being discriminated against because of her afro hairstyle says the school principal has offered an apology.
Damaris Isales's 10-year-old daughter attends Assumption Catholic School in Perth Amboy. She told New Jersey 101.5 that her daughter was instructed by school principal Michael Szpyhulsky in front of other students to "tuck her hair in" because it violated school policy.
On Wednesday, Isales met with the principal, who told her that when he made the remarks, he was distracted and "trying to make it on time for prayer and he doesn’t know why he said it, because it’s not like him," Isales told NJ 101.5.
Szpyhulsky has not yet returned a call placed last week seeking comment.
The school's general dress code, posted on its website, does not specifically mention afros or puffy hairstyles. Isales said her daughter's hair had not been a problem when she was attending public school prior to this year. But she said that the principal told her daughter the hair was "in her eyes," and excessively long — violating the dress code.
Isales said she later explained to the principal that her daughter's hairstyle was part of her culture, but when she initially addressed him, she said, Szpyhulsky "literally talked to me like I was an ignorant, immature Latina."
In the days following the incident, Isales said, her daughter had been self-conscious about her hair, and had bullied in school.
"This morning my daughter got in the car and said, 'Oh my hair,' and patted it down," Isales wrote to New Jersey 101.5 last week. "I told her, 'Your hair is beautiful. Don't listen to anybody who tells you otherwise."
Isales met with the principal Wednesday and told NJ 101.5 that "he did apologize and the bullying issue will be addressed."
She expressed relief having some closure over the incident, but said she will continue to encourage her daughter to love herself and her appearance. She said she hopes no other children have to deal with a similar situation.
"I hope no other child has to go through this," she said.
Dan Alexander contributed to this report.
Toniann Antonelli is the digital managing editor for news at NJ 101.5. Reach her at email@example.com, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.