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Steve Kilar, 602-773-6007, media@acluaz.org

February 6, 2018

Demand follows 12-year-old boy being forced out of Teleos Prep in Phoenix because of braided hair

PHOENIX—The ACLU of Arizona and the Black Mothers Forum, which are working together to advance equity in public education in Arizona, are calling on Great Hearts public charters schools to eliminate grooming policies that target children of color. The request follows news that the mother of a 12-year-old boy at Teleos Prep in Phoenix was forced to remove her son from the school after she was told his braided hair violates school policy.

“No child should be forced out of school because their hair violates an arbitrary policy that almost exclusively applies to children of color,” said ACLU of Arizona Executive Director Alessandra Soler. “Great Hearts needs a wakeup call. They have a number of policies and practices in place that have a discriminatory effect on marginalized populations, including transgender students and students of color. Policies like this seemingly innocuous grooming standard are what allows schools like Great Hearts to remove students of color from the classroom with impunity. It is just another example of a public charter school choosing the students it wants to educate.”

A recent analysis by the ACLU of Arizona shows that black and Latino students in Maricopa County public schools, both charter and district, are more likely than their white peers to be suspended. Right now, public schools in Arizona are not required by state law to record when students are disciplined or why they leave a school, which means that there is no way for the public to track how school policies, like Great Hearts’ grooming rules, affect vulnerable student populations, including students of color.

“After hearing about the events that took place at Teleos Preparatory Academy, it is quite apparent to me that the dress code rules were specifically created as another means of targeting and harassing our black children,” said Janelle Wood, founder of Black Mothers Forum, an Arizona nonprofit that advocates for black children facing discrimination in the education and criminal justice systems. “We as black mothers will no longer remain silent while our children are being threatened, harassed, provoked and neglected through the implementation of policies, practices, and processes designed to block our children from benefiting from an exceptional educational experience.”

The ACLU of Arizona and the Black Mothers Forum are open to talking with school administrators at any Arizona school about how grooming standards should be revised so that these policies cannot be used to discriminate against certain student populations. School administrators can begin the conversation by emailing demandtolearn@acluaz.org.

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