A school employee in Michigan who cut a biracial girl’s hair without her parents' permission and in violation of school policy will remain employed after the district said it uncovered no evidence the incident was motivated by racial bias.
The Mount Pleasant Public Schools (MPPS) Board of Education said in a July 2 statement that cutting a student’s hair on school grounds “is a clear violation of school policy” but it was “clear” from a third-party investigation and an internal investigation “that MPPS employees had good intentions when performing the haircut.”
The employee who the district acknowledged cut the child’s hair “without parent knowledge and without the knowledge of district administrators” will be placed on a “last chance” agreement, the district said, during which time “future violations will likely result in termination.”
Ganiard Elementary School drew scrutiny earlier this year when a parent, Jimmy Hoffmeyer, said a school employee cut his daughter's hair without permission. Photos that circulated online showed the girl before and after the employee cut her hair.
Christina Laster, who heads policy and legislation for the National Parents Union and also represents the girl’s family, told CNN that the girl's parents discovered her hair was initially cut on March 24.
At the time, she said the girl told her parents that a child cut her hair and the student was taken to a beautician to have her hair styled into a bob.
But Laster told the news network the girl's parents discovered her hair had been cut shorter again less than a week later by an employee without the parents’ consent. Laster said the child was in tears over the incident.
“First the librarian cut her hair without permission, and she suffered traumatically. She is now in counseling and therapy for a thing that happened to her and is still trying to grow her hair back,” Laster told CNN, adding the parents attributed the incident to racial bias.
The school district said that two other employees who were aware of the incident but didn’t alert the girl's parents or school administrators will receive written reprimands.
School officials said in their statement that a third-party independent investigation included “interviews with and feedback from district personnel, students and families.”
But Laster said the district didn’t interview the child's family.
“They didn't get both sides of the story, so how do you get those key findings? Overall it's a lack of accountability,” she said.
The Hill has reached out to the school district for comment.
CNN reported the family has since filed a complaint with the state’s Department of Civil Rights. Laster said the family is also backing legislation seeking to ban race-based hair discrimination.
According to data provided by the Michigan Department of Education, more than 72 percent of the over 3,000 students enrolled in the school district are white, while more than 8 percent were categorized as multiracial and less than 3 percent were listed as African American.