Society

School Says Teen's Natural Hair Is Against Dress Code

| by Kathryn Schroeder

A 16-year-old in Montverde, Florida, was asked by school administrators to change her natural hair because it did not align with the school's dress code.

Nicole Orr, a junior at Montverde Academy in Lake County, likes her natural hair and says others like it, as well.

“People say they love my hair because it’s so diverse, curly and Afro-centric,” the 16-year-old told WOFL.

Her hair is something she is known for, and Nicole never thought it would be something that would cause her to be singled out. But that's what has happened at school.

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“I received a call saying that my daughter needed to get her hair done and she wears her natural and I was kind of taken aback by it,” Nicole's father, Eric Orr, said.

It was a school administrator that contacted him and said Nicole's hairstyle did not conform to the school's dress code.

“She literally felt, ‘Wow, what's wrong with my hair? The Caucasian girls are able to wear their natural hair straight. Why can't I wear my natural hair the way that it grows?’” said Nicole's mom, Secily Wilson.

The family was told to refer to the school's handbook, where one line stood out to them.

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“It said 'dread-like' hair and so that could be ambiguous and it could give you latitude to target a certain person or a certain group so we felt we needed to address the issue,” Eric said.

Eric and Secily met with Dr. Kasey Kesselring, Montverde Academy's headmaster, to discuss the situation.

When asked by WOFL as to why Nicole's natural hair was a problem, he said, “My understanding in talking with the dean of students, I think it was more in line with that neat and organized look that we're going for. Not so much the issue of dread locks per se."

After reviewing the hair policy, Kesselring agreed that the line where dread locks is included should be removed so no one student is singled out.

“To know that we were able to help our daughter and all the other daughters or boys out there ... we feel pretty good about it,” Secily said.

A similar case of a student being targeted for wearing her hair naturally also occurred in Florida.

Then 12-year-old Vanessa VanDyke faced expulsion from Faith Christian Academy in Orlando because administrators wanted her to cut and shape her hair, Click Orlando reported. She was given one week to decide whether to cut her hair or leave it in its natural state and find a new school to attend. Vanessa had been a student at the Christian school since third grade.

"It says that I'm unique," Vanessa said. "First of all, it's puffy and I like it that way. I know people will tease me about it because it's not straight. I don't fit in."

Vanessa was not going to change her hair, and her mother supported her decision.

"I'm going to fight for my daughter," Sabrina Kent said. "If she wants her hair like that, she will keep her hair like that. There are people out there who may think that natural hair is not appropriate. She is beautiful the way she is."

School administrators reportedly changed their mind and said Vanessa would not be expelled for her hairstyle.

Sources: WOFL via WFLD, Click Orlando / Photo credit: April Welch/Flickr

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