The mother of a middle school student is speaking out after her child’s hair was reportedly called “distracting” by a school official.
Matthew Diaz is a sixth grade student at Benjamin Banneker Charter School in Cambridge.
The 11-year-old arrived to school with a new hairstyle, one fashioned after New York Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr., a move his mother says got him a talking to from the school.
“I said, ‘How is his hair distracting?’ She said, ‘Well, the other kids can’t focus,'” Jennifer Diaz told Boston 25.
An unnamed administrator reached by the television station reportedly said the issue was that the hair looked unkempt, and the school attempts to stress hygiene.
Following the conversation with the school, Diaz said her son wished to cut his hair. ” I said ‘no, you’re not,'” she told Boston 25.
Concerns regarding the hair of black students at charter schools in Massachusetts is an issue that has caused ire in recent months.
Another charter school in Massachusetts made headlines after students received detentions and faced suspension for wearing braids featuring extensions. Some students reported being barred from participating in school athletics or attending prom.
Officials at the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden initially defended the policy saying it promoted unity over style.
“Our policy on hair extensions, which tend to be very expensive, is consistent with, and a part of, the educational environment that we believe is so important to our students’ success,” the school said in a statement late in the 2016-2017 school year.
The office of Attorney General Maura Healey opened an investigation into the school and found students “in clear violation” of the school’s hair and makeup policies yet were not punished. Healey’s office said the policy was applied “unequally to punish students of color more frequently or more harshly than other students.”
Within days of the announced investigation, the charter’s board of trustees voted to suspend the policy.