Couple of women say school discriminates against children by cutting hair

A school’s decision to cut the hair of two children has become a topic of discussion in Indigenous history, rights and tradition.

In the spring of 2020, a school secretary cut the hair of Norma LeRoy’s daughters and his wife Alice Johnson, ages 12 and 7, without permission from LeRoy or Johnson. Haircut is a Lakota tradition, said LeRoy Flat water free press, and the school violated this tradition for a lice inspection they say was unnecessary.

“Happiness, kindness, the well-being of life takes it all away,” LeRoy told the newspaper. “And so that’s the reason we as Native Americans look at our hair tightly. Because it comes from the spirit world, and it was given to us.

LeRoy and Johnson said they approached the school to organize cultural awareness training, but they were ignored.

In May, the mothers sued the Cody-Kilgore Unified Schools District, alleging that their First Amendment rights had been violated.

“It definitely resonates with parents,” said Rose Godinez, their lawyer who works for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska. “When you send a child to school, you expect them to come back to you safe and sound, not raped, and that’s not what happened here. “

“I just want people to understand that you can’t touch someone else’s child,” Johnson explained. “Every religion has beliefs. Every culture has beliefs that we have rules by which we live. And I want people to know that.

After cutting the children’s hair, the mothers took them to the local Rosebud reserve to meet with spiritual leaders and family members to perform the rituals they deem necessary to protect the children after their haircuts. .

The incident spread to social media where people discussed their own experiences of schools going against Indigenous traditions, according to Flat water free press. Seniors shared stories of getting their hair cut during the school years.

“Having the seventh, eighth, tenth generation having to start over… I mean, it’s just a big eye-opener because it’s being relived,” LeRoy said.

Between 1860 and 1978, many Native American children were separated from their families and sent to residential schools. Often their long hair was cut and children were not allowed to speak their language.

In 1900, Zitkála-Šá of the Yankton Reservation in South Dakota wrote about the trauma of having his hair cut.

“I remember being dragged outside, even though I resisted kicking and scratching myself wildly,” Zitkála-Šá wrote, the outlet reported. “Despite myself, I was carried downstairs and strapped securely to a chair. I cried out loud, shaking my head the entire time until I felt the cold blades of the scissors against my neck and heard them eat away at one of my thick braids. Then I lost my mind… now I was just one of many little animals led by a shepherd.

In July, the school district attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed. The district said it does not discriminate against children and has taken steps to prevent future haircuts. He also said that no further cultural awareness training was needed.

LeRoy and Johnson hope their case can help bring justice to the children of generations ago.

“[That little girl] I had no one to stand up for her and say, ‘Don’t cut my kid’s hair,’ Johnson said. “Now times have changed enough that we can talk about it. “

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