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Dreadlock Drawback: Baltimore School Backs Off Controversial Hair Policy

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Danielle Cook

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A Baltimore City girl couldn’t get into the school she wanted to go to because of her hairstyle. Under pressure, the school has now backed off its policy.

Kai Jackson spoke with the young student at the center of the controversy.

It didn’t make sense. A school was more concerned with what was on Danielle Cook’s head instead of what was inside it–and it was stopping her from getting into the school of her dreams.

Thirteen-year-old Danielle Cook’s mom says the East Baltimore eighth-grader is a straight A student.

“Awesome grades. She’s been A+ since preschool,” said Dawnetta Jenkins.

So neither Cook nor her mom could understand a policy at a school Cook was interested in attending.

A representative from the popular and highly successful Cristo Rey Jesuit School came to recruit students at Cook’s middle school. Cook found out she might have the grades to get into Cristo Rey but her hairstyle would be a problem.

“My teacher was like, `Do you have a special hair policy?’ and he was like, `Well, we don’t take kids with dreads,’ and everybody was like, `Why?’” Cook said.

Cook says the representative told her that Cristo Rey places students in work study and dreadlocks don’t look professional.

“It sounded hurtful, like they didn’t want people there,” Cook said.

Cristo Rey has apparently had a change of heart and has ended the ban on dreads, saying in essence, “We hope our change in policy to allow dreadlocks will encourage greater numbers of students to apply for admission.”

Jenkins says she learned Monday that if her daughter is admitted to Cristo Rey, she can wear dreadlocks. It’s news Cook was happy to hear; she still wants to attend the school.

The issue of hair–especially styles worn by African-American girls and women–has been in the spotlight recently.

Jenkins doesn’t think Cristo Rey’s policy was racist.

“You know what, I don’t think it was racist at all, because I know white people with dreads. I just think it was pure discrimination,” she said.

Cristo Rey Jesuit High School was established in 2007.

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