School bans do-rags; students claim they are 'cultural gear'

File image of young men in do-rags. (Photo: Getty Images)
File image of young men in do-rags. (Photo: Getty Images)

At a Massachusetts charter school, students are fighting back against a new dress code rule that prohibits the wear of do-rags.

Gisnael Silva, a junior at KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate,  said he and other male students of color have been given in-school suspensions or been taken out of class for wearing do-rags, Item Live reports.

Silva and his classmates plan on contesting the code because they say do-rags are cultural gear and it helps maintain hairstyles. However, student dean Shauna-Kaye Clarke disagrees, saying the headgear is reflective of gang culture.

In an email obtained by Item Live, Clarke wrote that do-rags are “a direct component of school to prison pipeline and unfortunately, they are also reflective of some gang culture.” Previously, do-rags were allowed until a dress code amendment made in December prohibited them.

Clarke said do-rags cannot be on students’ heads or shoulders, and the strings from the head scarf cannot hang from their pockets. 

Caleb Dolan, KIPP Academy Lynn executive director, said the school allows religious dress and culturally relevant headscarves. For example, many Orthodox Jews wear fringes — called tzitzit — hanging from their pants. Would these students also be penalized, or is the new rule just applicable to the do-rags?  

“I just feel like it’s a part of our culture that they’re trying to take away,” said 18-year-old Jaeqhan McClain, a senior at KIPP. 

Students have scheduled a meeting with school officials next Friday to further discuss the matter. “We’re going to listen to students’ concerns and proposals for changes to the dress code and evaluate what’s best for the school, [and we’re] definitely excited to see what they come up with,” Dolan said.

Other U.S. students of color have been targeted for alleged dress code violations.

In January, an Arizona boy was sent home because his hair was styled in two French braids. The teacher claimed he was in violation of the dress code. The mom opted to switch her son to another school where he will be accepted and not discriminated against for his hairstyle choices.

Also, a law in South Carolina aims to ban men from wearing saggy pants. Parts of other states, such as Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, and New Jersey, have similar bans. However, many see the law as another way police can discriminate against minorities and increase harassment.

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