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Father sues Michigan school district for $1m after teacher cuts his daughter's hair

1 month 1 week 3 days ago Friday, September 17 2021 Sep 17, 2021 September 17, 2021 6:33 AM September 17, 2021 in News
Source: BBC News
Jimmy Hoffmeyer

ISABELLA COUNTY, Michigan - A Michigan man is suing his seven-year-old daughter's school district for one million dollars after a teacher cut her hair without parental permission.

According to BBC News, Jimmy Hoffmeyer's lawsuit against Mt. Pleasant Public Schools includes two staff members at Ganiard Elementary School who assisted in re-cutting his mixed-raced daughter's hair after it had already been cut by a professional hairdresser.

Hoffmeyer explained to BNC News reporters that one day on the schoolbus his daughter, Jurnee, had her long curly hair cut by a fellow classmate.

The childish haircut didn't look quite right, so she was taken to a hairdresser who gave her an asymmetrical cut to make the different lengths less noticeable.

However, days later, Jurnee returned home from school with the hair on the other side of her head cut. Her father said she was crying as she explained that a teacher had cut her hair.

Hoffmeyer was upset, and when the school was contacted regarding his concerns it launched an investigation into the matter.

School officials, however, decided the teacher had broken school policy but not acted with racial bias. The teacher was subsequently reprimanded, but allowed to keep her job.

Jurnee's father was not pleased with this result.

He pulled his daughter out of the school and is now filing a lawsuit that claims her constitutional rights were violated. 

The lawsuit also alleges racial discrimination, ethnic intimidation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault and battery.

Documents filed with the court say the district, "failed to properly train, monitor, direct, discipline, and supervise their employees and knew or should have known that the employees would engage in the complained of behavior given the improper training, customs, procedures, and policies, and the lack of discipline that existed for employees." 

Hoffmeyer's reaction to the teacher's choice to cut his daughter's hair is likely linked to a widespread history of discrimination against Black students based on the way they wear their hair. 

For example, in 2017, a charter school outside Boston issued multiple detentions to black 15-year-old girls who wore their hair in braided extensions, saying the hairstyle violated the dress code.

In 2018, a referee in New Jersey forced a 16-year-old mixed-race wrestler to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit his match.

And in 2019, a public elementary school in suburban Atlanta displayed several photos of black children, including girls with braids, to illustrate “inappropriate” haircuts.

As a series of similar stories unfolded across the U.S., illustrating that certain students were targeted and penalized for adapting cultural standards that suited the way their hair naturally grew, some lawmakers felt these students were in need of protection from discrimination.

For this reason, a number of states passed laws banning discrimination based on hair styles that are commonly associated with a person's race or nationality.

A few of the states that implemented these laws include CaliforniaNew York and New Jersey.

In the case of Hoffmeyer and Jurnee, the BBC reports that no formal response has yet been filed by the defendants and there has been no public comment from the school district.

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