Raising teenage girls can be a tough job. Raising black teenage girls as white parents can be even tougher. Aaron and Colleen Cook knew that when they adopted their twin daughters, Mya and Deanna.
As spring came around this year, the girls, who just turned 16, told their parents they wanted to get braided hair extensions. Their parents happily obliged, wanting Mya and Deanna to feel closer to their black heritage.
But when the girls got to school, they were asked to step out of class. Both were given several infractions for violating the dress code. Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, north of Boston, bans hair extensions in its dress code, deeming them “distracting.”
When administrators asked the girls to remove their braids, Mya and Deanna refused.
The next day, Colleen and Aaron Cook came to the school where, they say, they were told the girls’ hair needed to be “fixed.” The Cooks refused, telling administrators that there was nothing wrong with the hairstyle.“
Mya and Deanna Cook, 16, with their parents, Aaron and Colleen Cook.
Courtesy of the Cook family.
As punishment, the girls were removed from their extracurricular activities, barred from prom, and threatened with suspension if they did not change their hair.
According to Colleen Cook, administrators at Mystic Valley have routinely dreprimanded black students for dress code violations involving hair.
Other black girls have been pulled out of class, she says, lined up, asked if they had hair extensions and given detention if they did.
Colleen remembers when one student, who wore her hair in its natural texture, was taken out of class and told that she would need to relax, or chemically straighten, her hair before returning to school the next day.
In defense of their daughters, the Cooks brought in a yearbook to show school leaders the many white female students with hair extensions and dyed hair.