LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- For years, Louisville Male High School didn't allow its students to wear braids and dreadlocks as part of its strict dress code policy.

But earlier this spring, Male High's site-based decision making council made changes to its dress code policy for the upcoming school year and hairstyles that used to be banned are now allowed, said Jim Jury, the school's principal. 

"When it came time to review our policies in March, our council made the decision to make a few changes," Jury said. "Overall, our entire dress code policy is less restrictive than it has been in the past."

Jury said recent controversy over Butler High School's hair policy -- part of the school's dress code -- have had several people questioning whether Male -- the district's other traditional high school -- had similar rules.

"That is no longer true," Jury said. 

When it comes to hair styles, Male High School's new policy states:

  • Hair, teeth and nails must be clean and neat at all times. Dental grills are not allowed. Hairstyles that are extreme, distracting, or attention getting, will not be permitted. Hair must be a natural hair color. No attention getting, contrasting colors."
  • ONLY Females my wear headbands.
  • Male’s hair length should be no more than 3” and cannot touch the ears, top of the shirt collar, or eyebrows. Cut-in designs are not permissible. Males may not wear ponytails or man buns. Sideburns may not extend below the earlobe. Bandanas are not allowed.

Attica Scott, an incoming state lawmaker, first raised questions about the policy Wednesday after her daughter brought back a copy of Butler's dress code for the year. 

Butler's policy states that "hair styles that are extreme, distracting or attention-getting will not be permitted" and specifically prohibits dreadlocks, cornrows and twists in hair.

"What you do with your hair to me, has nothing to do with you ability to learn as a student," Attica Scott said.  

Her daughter, Ashanti Scott, said she "felt disrespected."

"It said clean and neat hair, and it made me feel like, maybe my hair isn't clean," Ashanti Scott said.

The story created a firestorm on social media and prompted Butler High School principal William Allen to call a special meeting of the school's site-based council -- which creates and approves the school's dress code policy -- to discuss it on Friday afternoon. The meeting will be held at 1:30 pm at Western High School, due to renovations taking place at Butler.

Under state law, dress code policies are left up to schools' decision-making councils, but Jefferson County Public Schools officials have been reaching out to all schools' decision-making councils, "encouraging" them to review their policies.

"We appreciate that the concern has been brought to our attention, because our board of education is adamant in its policies about being inclusive," Superintendent Donna Hargens told WDRB on Thursday.

"We will provide guidance to our schools to ensure their policies are not obtrusive, do not conflict with board policy and most importantly do not infringe on the many cultures embraced across our school district," Hargens later said in a statement sent to the media.

John Marshall, the district's chief equity officer, tweeted photos Thursday morning of his three daughters sporting different hairstyles, including braids and cornrows, as well as dyed hair.

Jury said changes to Male High School's policy were made after students addressed the council, asking for the dress code policy to be more lax.

"It used to be a requirement they students wear polo shirts under their sweatshirts in the winter and a lot of students told us that it was too much, it got to be too hot," he said. "The hair issue was not something brought to our attention, but we decided to update it to be more current with natural hairstyles."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky says it also has inquired about school dress code policies, due to the controversy at Butler.

"Understandably, schools have adopted dress codes, in part, to keep the learning environment free from distraction," the ACLU said in a tweet. Singling out culturally specific hairstyles may send a signal to students of color that their very being is a distraction in the classroom. We should all be able to agree that all students should be respected for who they are."

WDRB has asked JCPS if it is aware of any other school with restrictive hair policies like Butler, but a district spokesperson has not yet responded to an email, text or a phone call.

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