Controversial hair policy at Butler High School temporarily susp - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Controversial hair policy at Butler High School temporarily suspended

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- What some consider a racist hair policy at Butler Traditional High School was temporarily suspended Friday.

"I feel as if you all are telling me why my hair, why my skin color is a burden, and I know that's not true," said Shayla Ford, a Butler student.

In a matter of minutes at a meeting Friday, Butler Principal William Allen temporarily suspended a dress code policy that some felt unfairly targeted African-American students. What left some in the room unhappy, though, was that there was no discussion prior to Allen's decision.

"Right now, I think it was important for us to suspend the policy immediately, so we have an opportunity to get an open and honest conversation about the hair issue," Allen said.

"I don't care how they try to put it, how they try to rewrite it, it's discrimination at the end of the day," said Tamara Gullion, a Butler parent. "They don't understand... If you're not black, you don't understand."

At issue are banned hairstyles like corn rows, twists, dreadlocks, afros longer than two inches and braids on young men. Allen said the recent change in policy language came after confusion from last year.

Some believe the policy discriminates against African-American culture.

Others, however, believe rules need to be followed. 

"In most cases, you don't get to pick and chose what rules you get to follow just because you don't agree with something," another Butler parent said. 

Traditional schools often have tighter dress code policies. One mother says some parents are just looking to cause trouble.

"It's a lot of what you call race baiting," said Keisha Cospy, a Butler parent. "They have Caucasian males that are not allowed to have long hair. You can't look like a rock star and go to school."

Cospy's daughter says this is all just a misunderstanding. After calling the school, she was told it's a rule that applies to just males. 

Kameko Cospy has been wearing her twist for at Butler for three years.

"They never said anything to me about this hairstyle," she said. "These rules have been the same at Butler, period." 

About 35 percent of the student population at Butler is African American. Further discussion on the hair issue will be discussed, but a day has not been set.

Attica Scott, who's daughter is a Butler student and who initially raised concerns over the policy Thursday, posted the following message on Facebook concerning Friday's meeting:

I appreciate this first step but have to share my own narrative about what transpired today knowing that some in local media will focus on arguments that erupted.

I am like many people who took their lunch hour from work to attend this special SBDM meeting. I get there and the meeting room is full with students, parents, community folks, JCPS staff, Sheriff's deputies, media, Shively City Council members, school board members, etc. We sit patiently and wait for the meeting to begin. Principal Allen calls the SBDM meeting to order, goes through his spiel about policies and traditional schools, and announces that the purpose of the meeting is to review the Dress Code Policy. Principal Allen makes a motion to suspend the policy and the motion passed. Fine. Principal Allen then ends the meeting after three minutes.

Many of us begin to look around with confusion -- people who have traveled from Hurstbourne, Newburg, etc., have taken their lunch hour off to attend the meeting, secured childcare for their babies, all expecting to be heard. I sat there for a moment. I then got up and walked over to Principal Allen and spoke, one-on-one, about the need to hear from people who came to speak. Principal Allen looks at me perplexed, says, "just a moment," and then got up to go speak to local media.

I then went over to Dr. Hargens, one-on-one, and said the same thing and added that it was offensive to not allow people to be heard. Dr. Hargens responds, "let's think this through." What?

So, when the cameras came over to speak to me, I got up on the platform and said that we would rather hear from the students who took time to show up and share their stories. I am disgusted by Dr. Hargens for her irresponsibility as the Superintendent for refusing to hear from people who were present and for not stepping up as a leader to say let's listen to the people. I am equally disgusted by the white teachers who tried to yell down the Black students as they spoke, teachers, teachers, teachers. How dare these teachers expect these same students to show up to school on August 10th feeling safe around people who tried to publicly humiliate minors (one young woman was even in tears). Students who were not yelling at the teachers but who were actually holding court with media.

I never once saw Dr. Hargens go over to those teachers and ask them to respect the young people who were speaking -- neither did the Sheriff's officers. What did happen is that Dr. Hargens sat back and watched as adults started yelling at one another over information that was misrepresented. First, the policy that was distributed for review today was different than what was given as a handout during registration on Wednesday. I am so glad that another parent had that registration sheet with her to show the difference in language. Second, these poised students -- teenagers being yelled at by their adult teachers -- were making a strong case against discrimination of any kind, including discrimination based on gender.

Dr. Hargens showed a side of her today that was very telling -- her lack of leadership is clear. I hope that folks show up to the August 9th school board meeting and send your kids to school with their beautiful, natural hair. In fact, have them meet up on August 10th to walk in together because those teachers were acting in a threatening manner that will probably not be touched on by local media.

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