Army facing uproar over dreadlocks ban

The Army is in hot water over new hairstyle regulations that critics say discriminate against African-American women in the military.

Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs says the new rules that ban most twists, cornrows and dreadlocks are "racially biased," because they single out black military women with natural hair who predominately use these styles. 

She started a White House petition that has garnered more than 13,000 signatures from people requesting that President Obama require the Army to reconsider the rule. The petitioners need to raise 100,000 signatures by April 19 to force a review by the president.

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"These new changes are racially biased and the lack of regard for ethnic hair is apparent," Jacobs wrote in the petition. "This policy needs to be reviewed prior to publishing to allow for neat and maintained natural hairstyles."

The Army released the grooming and uniform regulations in March in a document that also contains rules for soldiers with tattoos and men's side burns and facial hair.

The biggest controversy has been with the Army's hairstyle rules for women. According to the petition, black women account for about one-third of all women in the Army.

The Army maintains that the new hairstyle rules are designed to promote the safety of women in the military by making sure their helmets fit, according to reports.

When it issued the rules, the Army also released photos that illustrate which hairstyles are banned. 

But Jacobs said the rules leave black military women with "little to no options" for styling their hair naturally.

She said that many of these hairstyles should not be seen as unprofessional.

"Females with natural hair take strides to style their natural hair in a professional manner when necessary," Jacobs said.

The Army Times first reported on the issue.