Split Ends: Concluding Thoughts on the Legality and Desirability of Public School Hairstyle Prohibitions

Anna-Lisa F. Macon  Hair's the Thing: Trait Discrimination and Forced Performance of Race Through Racially Conscious Public School Hairstyle Prohibitions, 17  University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 1255 (April, 2015) (194 Footnotes)

  This comment had twin aims: to determine whether publicly funded primary and secondary schools are legally able to institute racially conscious hairstyle prohibitions, and to determine whether they should be able to do so. The answer to the latter question is obvious. School dress codes that prohibit afros, afro-puffs, dreadlocks, small twisted braids, and other culturally Black styles imply the Black body is unacceptable, unruly, and unprofessional. These policies result in forced assimilation that is damaging to the psyche of Black children. However well-intentioned, these policies subtly say that White traits are good while Black traits are bad. Because this implication is inherently discriminatory and damaging, and because these facially neutral policies target a historically marginalized and highly visible racial group, public school hairstyle prohibitions are unacceptable and should be banned.

Unfortunately, the law has yet to acknowledge this alarming reality. Despite evidence that the policies are discriminatory, current understandings of race in Fourteenth Amendment equal protection jurisprudence allow such policies to continue. Only by utilizing both antisubordination and anticlassification perspectives in equal protection analysis to expand the law's limited conception of race, can Americans outlaw these policies and protect Black students' rights and persons.

  J.D. Candidate 2015, University of Pennsylvania Law School; B.A. 2012, Brandeis University.’