A letter sent home to parents at a Cincinnati middle school regarding proper attire for an upcoming chorus concert hit a nerve with some critics who decried the policy as “racist.”
The letter, sent by a choir teacher at Pleasant Run Middle School, advised young men to see a barber and young ladies to see a cosmetologist ahead of Thursday’s show, according to Local 12 News. However, it’s a line in the memo stating “large Afros are not acceptable,” that has parents crying racism and accusing the dress code of targeting Black students.
“Them sending home something like this is sending a message that it’s not okay to show up in our natural state,” said Marlicia Robinson, whose daughter is in the school choir. “My daughter wears an afro to school on a regular basis. She has a lot of hair. It’s going to be large. That’s just what her hair does, that’s what our hair does as Black people.”
According to screenshots of the letter posted to Facebook, hairstyles including mohawks and barber designs were deemed “outlandish” and banned at the concert.
Ohio's Pleasant Run Middle School (@nwlocal) in HOT Water After Questionable Program "Attendance Policy" Targets Black Students.
“Men with long hair … should devote the necessary attention to make sure that hair is neat and pulled behind the neck in a conservative ponytail style,” it reads. As for young women, “hair must be styled in a manner that will NOT draw any specific attention to an individual performer on stage. Therefore, bright colors such as pink or red aren’t permissible.”
The letter states the dress and grooming policy will be “strictly enforced” and students who refuse to comply will be sent home, forfeiting their grade for the class.
The controversial letter was reportedly sent by the school’s vocal music teacher, Steven Reeves, who is African-American.
“I think that it’s his first year, he’s a Black teacher and I just think he didn’t want to rock the boat,” Robinson said, seemingly trying to give Reeves the benefit of the doubt.
“There’s no reason why this teacher should have felt comfortable sending that home,” she later added.
The memo sparked enough outrage to catch the attention of Northwest School District officials, who condemned the messaging and said the letter was sent without permission.
“Today we were made aware of guidelines sent home to students for the upcoming chorus concert,” the district said in a statement posted to Twitter. “This message was not approved by PRMS administration and does not reflect our views at all.”
PRMS went on to apologize for the letter and, in a separate statement by Reeves, promised to revise the dress code policy for this week’s concert.
“I wanted to send a note of apology for any negative feelings that were created due to the previous dress guideline communication,” wrote the choir teacher, who was hired in August. “The wording and expectations were insensitive and were a mistake. My hope in the foreseeable future is to mend relationships that have been broken with students, parents, and the Pleasant Run Middle School community.”