Teaching children the importance of self-expression at a young age is a priority for many parents. Those lessons become difficult however, when there are schools like the Deborah Brown Community School in Tulsa, Oklahoma that seemingly teach students the complete opposite. This week, 7-year-old Tiana Parker was sent home due to the school’s dress code policy which states, “hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, mohawks, and other faddish styles are unacceptable."
EBONY.com caught up with little Tiana and her father Terrance Parker who withdrew her from the school after being sent home.
EBONY.com: Did you know about the school’s dress code prior to enrolling Tiana?
Terrance Parker: The policy I knew about was geared more towards boys. Tiana had dreads the entire school year last year and we didn’t have any problems. Teachers were complimenting her saying that they loved them, and to turn around this year and say that she can’t have dreads is mind boggling.
EBONY.com: Whose idea was it for Tiana to start growing dreadlocks?
TP: Tiana wanted this hairstyle. My wife and I sat her down and explained to her that by having dreadlocks you cannot change her hairstyle as often. We had to really let her know the pros and cons of the hairstyle, and she wanted them anyway. She inspired my oldest daughter to start growing them as well. That’s what hurt’s most, that it was her idea and I feel like taking that away from her isn’t right. I’m all for my kids being themselves.
EBONY: The Deborah Brown school administration is primarily African-American (as is Deborah Brown, who wears afro-styled hair herself), do you have any idea why there are such strict restrictions on hairstyles?
TP: I have no idea. My oldest daughter attends another Deborah Brown School where the after-school programs teaches them about the African culture. Plus there’s a teacher who wears dreadlocks as well. I just don’t understand it.
EBONY: Tiana’s a straight A student. How has this incident affected her as well as your family?
TP: It’s affected us tremendously. If my kids aren’t happy, then I’m not happy. It really hurts my feelings that someone can’t accept my daughter because of a hairstyle. It has nothing to do with education. If they’re constantly sending Tiana home, how is she supposed to learn? As long as she isn’t being disruptive I don’t understand why she can’t be in school.
EBONY: What would you like to see from the Deborah Brown School Administration?
TP: I want the policy to be changed. I’m for uniforms, but I don’t understand restricting hairstyles and shoes. The school also requests parents to sign a waiver which gives them permission to spank students. I refused to sign that as well. I don’t agree with certain rules, which is why I chose to withdraw Tiana and enrolled her in a new school.
Editor's Note: We briefly spoke with Tiana Parker directly, who says she felt "sad" when the principal told her she wasn’t supposed to have dreads. She says, "The Deborah Brown administration was mean, but I like my new school."
LaParis Hawkins covers natural hair for EBONY.com.