African-American girl brought to tears after school told her to leave because of braids, family says

A sixth-grade girl in Terrytown, Louisiana, has been pulled out of the Catholic elementary school she attended, after she was sent home for having braided hair.

Faith Fennidy’s brother, Steven Fennidy, posted a Facebook video showing Fennidy leaving the school with relatives after she was sent home for her hairstyle.

In the video, Fennidy is shown crying while adults around her can be heard having a contentious conversation.

“I don’t want this to happen,” a woman can be heard saying. That woman has not been identified. 

A man, who refers to Fennidy as his daughter in the video, is heard saying, “Yes, you do.”

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Family members told WWL that Christ the King Elementary School implemented a new policy regarding hair extensions over the summer, but didn’t notify them of the change.

The school’s policy states that only “natural hair” is permitted.

In a statement to WWL, Archdiocese of New Orleans superintendent RaeNell Houston said the school gave the family a chance to comply with the uniform and dress policy, but the family chose to withdraw her from the school.

“This policy was communicated to all parents during the summer and again before the first day of school, and was applied to all students,” Houston said. “Furthermore, the school leadership worked with families as needed to ensure compliance.”

Some online have accused the school policy of being racist, including rapper T.I., who shared the video on his Instagram page Monday night, calling the move “deplorable.”

“You should be ashamed of yourselves, although I know you aren’t,” T.I. wrote. “This young lady is beautiful and her hair is perfectly fine. Unless of course, you have an issue with black people’s hair in generally? Or is it that you intended to publicly ostracize & humiliate these young ladies so they’d be ashamed of who they are and how they look.”

In his post, Steven Fennidy said his young sister has her hair braided for practical reasons, but the school would not compromise with the family.

“Extensions make the hair easier to maintain. It allows my sister to have access to the swimming pool without having to get her hair Re-done every night,” his post said.

The Anti-Defamation League, South Central Region, and the Urban League of Louisiana issued a joint statement late Tuesday voicing concern about the school’s “racially insensitive grooming policy.”

“ADL and the Urban League are deeply troubled by the policy in question as well as the manner in which the school is disciplining students of color under this policy,” the statement said. “The policy shows racial insensitivity and bias by the administration to students and their families.”

Dr. Rashida Govan, executive director of Project Butterfly New Orleans, told WWL banning hairstyles by calling them “unnatural” can cause self-esteem issues for students of color. 

“I think it sends a message that you are not acceptable in the way you show up, who you are is not acceptable because that is a part of who we are with these hairstyles,” Govan said. “So if you want to continue to operate in this community, you better reconsider any policy that suggests to young people that who they are isn't valuable.”

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