We wanted to find out more about our Black students’ and colleagues’ experiences of hair discrimination, so we conducted a survey. 34 students and two colleagues responded to our survey. Of these, 86% agreed or strongly agreed that their hair was an important part of their identity. Respondents described their pride in using their hair to express and explore their cultural heritage, with one describing their hair as “my crown”. 81% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they are comfortable with their natural hair, although 53% stated that they had sometimes wished that their hair was different. In particular, respondents reported feeling pressure from the media to have straight hair as this is perceived to be easier to manage, more professional or even more attractive. At 92%, a vast majority of respondents reported that strangers sometimes or often touch their hair without their consent, while 67% reported that people sometimes or often make comments about their hair which make them feel uncomfortable. Some of these comments are utterly dehumanising. One respondent said that a stranger had described their hair as “fluffy like a dog” while another said that someone had said their braids “look like snakes” and are “dirty”. One respondent was called a “Tellytubby”. Perhaps most shockingly of all one student describes how another child wiped Wotsits from their fingers onto their hair.
In order to help us better recognise and accommodate the cultural heritage of our students, we have made an alteration to our student uniform policy in order to help us better recognise and accommodate the cultural heritage of our students. From now on, students will be allowed to wear hair beading so long as the beads are black, or navy blue. We will be working closely with the Youth Leadership Team to continue to find ways in which we can celebrate the diversity of our student and staff bodies, as well as promoting a culture of inclusivity at our academy.