C.J. Stanley Sr. took his six-year-old son to A Book Christian Academy in Apopka, Fla., for his first day at school, but C.J. Jr. was turned away because of his dreadlocks. The school had a policy on no long hair for boys, and the fact that C.J. offered to put his hair in a pony tail didn’t help.
After unenrolling him, Stanley walked his son outside of the school, and videotaped his reaction to what he felt was discrimination.
Unbeknownst to him, Sue Book, the teacher who turned them away, called the sheriff’s office because he stood on school property talking to other parents about the issue.
Stanley never saw any police that day, but he’s now organizing a community meeting “to discuss discrimination policies that target Black hair and Black children in schools.”
C.J. is now enrolled in public school. His father said his son doesn’t fully understand the significance of the incident.
“It’s over for him,” Stanley said. “He said, ‘Dad. That was just this morning. Why are we still talking about it'”
“It was hard to explain,” his father recalled. “I said, ‘It’s something that needs to be talked about. Like, you don’t understand right now. You’ll understand it later.'”
Research shows that not talking to Black children about racism and what they may witness or experience can actually lead to more distress later, due to the shock of unexpected exposure, writes Dr. Angel Dunbar, a Developmental Scientist, in an APA racial and ethnic socialization column on supporting Black children.
The Yale Child Study Center identified implicit racial bias among early educators as a likely source of the disproportionate punishment received by Black boys.
Research on zero tolerance policies, and their outcomes, shows that they enforce a marginalization of Black girls in schools, which can, in practice, criminalize their Black identity, according to Dorinda J. Carter Andrews, assistant dean of equity outreach initiatives at Michigan State University.
Supporters of the Stanleys want the policy changed or they will plan to petition the state to pull the school’s funding.
The school was bombarded with negative backlash on social media, and via phone calls directly to Rev. Book.
On the second day of classes at the Christian school, five sheriff’s deputies came by because Rev. Book expected a protest in front of the school at any moment.
Stanley said that if he had known the school was going to enforce a half-century-old policy like this, he wouldn’t have put his son through the embarrassment.
C.J. chose his hair style because his godfather wears his hair that way, and after doing well in school, Stanley allowed his son the hairstyle he wanted.
Stanley said the school seemed to associate the hairstyle with “hoodlums,” but he said they were disassociating themselves with people of color.
“Allow kids to come as they are. You are a Christian school. In the Bible it says, come as you are,” he said.