Professor Courtney Mauldin Speaks to AP About Black Students, Dress Codes, and Hair Styles

School dress codes promote discipline. But many Black students see traces of racism.

For as long as schools have policed hairstyles as part of their dress codes, some students have seen the rules as attempts to deny their cultural and religious identities. 

Courtney MauldinNowhere have school rules on hair been a bigger flashpoint than in Texas, where a trial this week is set to determine whether high school administrators can continue punishing a Black teenager for refusing to cut his hair. 

The 18-year-old student, Darryl George, who wears his hair in locs tied atop his head, has been kept out of his classroom since the start of the school year …

… Whether in professional workplaces, social clubs or schools, research has shown that such beauty norms and grooming standards have inflicted physical, psychological and economic harm on Black people and other people of color. 

Dress codes are built upon regulations that stretch back decades, which explains why they often are complex, said Courtney Mauldin, a professor at Syracuse University’s School of Education. 

“Schools were not designed with Black children in mind,” she said. “Our forefathers of education were all white men who set the tone for what schools would be … and what the purposes are of schooling — one of those being conformity. That’s one of the key ideas that was actually introduced in the 1800s.” 

In some cases, students and advocates have pushed back successfully …

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