Update (July 9, 2021): A school district in Michigan said there was no racial bias involved when a librarian cut a biracial 7-year-old girl’s hair at Ganiard Elementary School.
According to CNN, the Mount Pleasant Public School district said the employee violated its policy by cutting Jurnee’s hair, but they didn’t find evidence to prove that the incident was “motivated by racial bias.”
Releasing a statement on Friday, the district added that the employee will not be fired. However, the person will “be placed on a ‘last chance’ agreement during which time any future violations will likely result in termination.”
“We believe a last chance agreement is appropriate given that the employee has an outstanding record of conduct and has never once been reprimanded in more than 20 years of work at MPPS,” administrators stated.
Two other employees who didn’t report the haircut were also given written reprimands.
“It’s clear from the third-party investigation and the district’s own internal investigation that MPPS employees had good intentions when performing the haircut,” the district said. “Regardless, their decisions and actions are unacceptable and show a major lack of judgement. The employees involved have acknowledged their wrong actions and apologized.”
Christina Laster, the Director of Policy and Legislation for the National Parents Union, said the investigation results are disappointing and confusing for the family.
“They didn’t get both sides of the story, so how do you get those key findings?” she said. “Overall it’s a lack of accountability.”
The advocate adds that the little girl remains traumatized by the incident.
“First the librarian cut her hair without permission, and she suffered traumatically,” Laster said. “She is now in counseling and therapy for a thing that happened to her and is still trying to grow her hair back.”
The family, now pursuing a state investigation into the incident, has filed a complaint with Michigan’s Department of Civil Rights.
“We cannot discuss the particulars of a complaint while it remains under investigation,” Vicki Levengood, communications director for the department, said.
“We can say, however, that our Community Engagement Director will be in contact with the school administration again this week to assess the situation and to assist with training and educational opportunities that we believe may help prevent an incident of this type from occurring in the future,” Levengood added.
In addition, the family is pushing for more legislation to stop hair discrimination.
“No child should be receiving a haircut at school,” Laster said. “This has been humiliating to her family, and this is a young girl who is developing and is going to have a lifelong impact. They are not seeing the harm. They are protecting adults, not children.”
Jimmy Hoffmeyer saw the unwarranted new look on March 26 when his daughter Jurnee came home from school with her hair cut within inches of her scalp, The Black Wall Street Times reported.
The incident happened two days after Jurnee’s classmate had cut her long curly hair on one side as she was heading home on the bus. Hoffmeyer took his daughter to the salon after the bus incident and allowed her to choose a new look.
“I know how today’s society is,” the father said. “I wasn’t going to let my little girl go to school with half of her hair cut off.”
Hoffmeyer was even more outraged when a similar incident happened again a couple of days later.
“I don’t think there are words to express how I felt in that moment,” he said.
As he saw his daughter crying when she came home, the furious father first suspected that another student had once again cut his child’s hair. But Jurnee said it was a librarian that did it this time.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Hoffmeyer said. “I jumped in the car to go to the school, but realized it was spring break. I couldn’t get ahold of anyone, so I called the cops.”
The school’s secretary later told the parent that she was in “utter disbelief,” but the principal wouldn’t be available to talk to the father until after spring break, a week later.
Hoffmeyer demanded consequences when he was finally able to talk with Ganiard Principal Marcy Stout.
“She apologized and said she didn’t know why they would do that,” he said. “I asked what was going to be done about it and she said they would probably get a mark in their progress folder or something. And that any further actions would need to go through the superintendent. So, I told her I want the superintendent to call me.”
However, the discussion with superintendent Jennifer Verleger didn’t make the situation any better.
“The superintendent called and sounded very insincere and short,” Hoffmeyer said. “She asked if it would make us feel better if she had the teachers send ‘I’m sorry’ cards in the mail.”
As the father considered pulling his daughter out of the school, the principal tried to convince the family to stay, offering to follow the child around campus to make sure nothing happens to her.
“How is the solution to punish my kid?” Hoffmeyer asked.
The enraged parent added that the school has refused to let him see footage from the bus incident, telling him there is nothing to see. As he continues to demand clarity, Hoffmeyer has been proudly sharing photos of his daughter on social media.
I know alot of yall want to kno more but this is all I can say at the moment but will update when I can…just want to keep ppl aware in the mean time.
The family is now getting help from the National Parents Union, which is seeking a civil rights attorney to handle the case.
“No child should have to experience this type of humiliating ordeal because of their hair texture, style, or type! The adults entrusted with her learning crossed the line, didn’t protect her, and had no desire to be accountable for their actions,” the NPU stated.
Although the father did not say if he believed the incident was racially motivated, the organization is demanding for Michigan lawmakers to enact the CROWN Act. As Blavity previously reported, Senator Cory Booker announced the CROWN Act in 2019 to ban discrimination based on hair texture and hairstyles. The bill first passed in California, then New York.
“Discrimination against Black hair is discrimination against Black people,” Booker said in 2019. “Implicit and explicit biases against natural hair are deeply ingrained in workplace norms and society at large. This is a violation of our civil rights, and it happens every day for Black people across the country.”
Citing one of the high-profile cases of discrimination in recent years, Booker talked about Andrew Johnson, a young man who was forced to cut his locs before a wrestling match in New Jersey in 2018.
Last month, a Black mother in Chicago demanded change after her 4-year-old son’s hair was regarded as a dress code violation. Ida Nelson said the private school, Providence St. Mel, deemed the style unacceptable because her son had his hair in braids.
“I said, ‘We still have policies related to Black hair in 2021, as an all-Black school? I’m really shocked about that,'” the mother said. “We have progressed, we have so much more information. I thought surely this school would understand the trauma associated with policing Black hair and absolutely not have a policy like that.”
Jurnee, who has now moved to a new school, is struggling to cope with the incident.
“We’ve had to take her to the doctor because she hasn’t been eating. She’s having trouble sleeping now and always wants to be with us. All of this because her hair didn’t look how they thought it should, wasn’t done to their standards,” Hoffmeyer said. “If you look at pictures of her before this happened, you can just see her spark and her energy. Now it’s like it’s just gone.”