Steven Reeves, a music teacher at Pleasant Run Middle in Cincinnati, sent a letter home for young men to see a barber and young ladies to see a cosmetologist the night before the show. The letter banned natural hairstyles — like “large afros” — specifically worn by Black children at the school.
Reeves, who was hired in August and listed his educational background as having a master’s degree and hours toward his doctorate with five years of experience, taught at Dayton Public Schools in Ohio as well as Orange Public Schools in New Jersey and Central State University of Ohio. He has since apologized for the offensive letter.
The letter was shared on Facebook and went viral. Parents were understandably upset and were vocal about their feelings regarding Reeves’ “concerns.”
Considering that Reeves is Black, the distribution of the letter is even more puzzling because it’s no secret that natural hairstyles worn by Blacks has created an environment of hostility, albeit passive aggressive. He has stated that he expected “to have the opportunity to cultivate students.”
Isn’t teaching Black children to be proud of who they are by embracing their natural hair and creativity a part of that cultivation
The Northwest Local School District, where Pleasant Run Middle School is located, changed its dress code this year after getting input from parents of students in the district. Language concerning hair color, piercings and not allowing girls to wear dresses was not in the new code.
The district superintendent, Todd Bowling, issued a statement and a letter from Reeves apologizing for the letter, as well as expressed that the letter did not reflect the district’s views.
One parent, Marlicia Robinson, expressed her concerns stating: “Them sending home something like this is sending a message that it’s not okay to show up in our natural state. There’s no reason why this teacher should have felt comfortable sending that home.”
Robinson, whose daughter is in the school choir, continued, “My daughter wears an afro to school on a regular basis. She has a lot of hair. It’s going to be large. That’s just what her hair does, that’s what our hair does as Black people.”
“WOW..but living in Cincinnati all these years this mindset/ideology doesn’t surprise me at all…why not just tell the Black kids not to come,” wrote another resident, Brian Keith, in a Sunday Facebook post.
Pleasant Run Middle School has a majority Black student population. Reeves had the perfect opportunity to instill pride and value into his students. But, instead, he created a moment of shame for children, who will more than likely face these obstacles as adults.