Washington University Professor Says Schools’ Policies on Black Hair Are Discriminatory

Kimberly Norwood, the Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law and professor of African and African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis, is a leader of an effort to end what she says are discriminatory polices regarding African Americans’ hair in schools throughout the United States.

“Several school districts around the nation have adopted policies that prevent students from wearing their hair in braids, twists, dreadlocks and Afros, and even Afro puffs,” said Dr. Norwood. “These styles are typically excluded as unprofessional, extreme, distracting or faddish; these conclusions are wrong and have a discriminatory impact on one group of students in particular: African-descendant students.”

Dr. Norwood co-authored a letter that was signed by 120 legal scholars that argued that the hair policies are discriminatory. As a result, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union have taken on the legal fight.

“It is our hope that our educators and K-12 policymakers will recognize that there is nothing wrong or unacceptable about African-American hair, and that they will implement training and policies that convey this knowledge,” Professor Norwood said.

Dr. Norwood joined the faculty at Washington University in 1990. She is a graduate of Fordham University in The Bronx, New York, where she majored in political science and public administration. She earned her law degree at the University of Missouri.

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  1. Great points. When does wearing hair units natural state present a problem? Hair free of chemicals should be embraced by society. Being proud of Natural beauty should be celebrated by all.

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