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Mom: School’s discriminating against 10-year-old’s ‘afro’ hair

Damaris Isales daughter
Damaris Isales daughter (Damaris Isales)

The mother of a Catholic school student alleges her daughter is being discriminated against because of her Afro hairstyle.

Damaris Isales said her 10-year-old daughter was told by the principal in front of other students at Catholic Assumption School in Perth Amboy to “tuck her hair in” because it violates school policy.

But ButIsales said there is nothing that states “no Afros or puffy hair” in the school’s dress code and her daughter’s hair had not been a problem during her time in public school prior to this school year.

The school’s general dress code, posted on its website, states the school does not allow “extreme hairstyles.” According to the policy, “extreme hair styles such as spikes, Mohawks, shaved heads/scalp designs, gel hairdos, long or straggly hair (i.e. covering the eyebrows), coloring or highlighting, excessive hair ornaments, extensions, hairpieces, or male facial hair, are never permitted.”

The guidelines state that students not in compliance “will be subject to disciplinary action.”

Isales said she spoke to principal Michael Szpyhulsky outside the school the next day and explained that the style is part of her culture.

“He said, ‘I told her to tuck her hair in. We don’t allow Afros in the school,'” Isales said in an email to New Jersey 101.5. “I explained to him that, that is her hair, her culture, that’s who she is. He said “we don’t allow fashion” … in the school policy.”

According to Isales, she also told the principal her daughter was getting bullied over the school incident. Isales said Szpyhulsky did not ask about who was bullying her daughter, or offer an apology for bringing up her hairstyle in public.

“This morning my daughter got in the car and said, ‘Oh my hair,’ and patted it down,” Isales wrote to New Jersey 101.5 Wednesday. “I told her, ‘Your hair is beautiful. Don’t listen to anybody who tells you otherwise.”

Isales said she has yet to hear back from the Diocese of Metuchen about a letter she sent to it asking for an apology for the principal’s instructions, and for the bullying the situation to be addressed.

“If by next week I don’t hear back by next week I will get a lawyer and complain about it at another level,” Isales said.

Szpyhulsky told New Jersey 101.5 that the situation is more of a “misunderstanding” and he is attempting to meet with Isales.

“The initial conversation was not the place to discuss it. I want to have that conversation,” Szpyhulsky said.

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