Tiana Parker Controversy Continues; Legislators Say Hair Policy Must Be Reviewed

Tiana Parker is only 7 years old, but she may just be a catalyst of change in Oklahoma.  Not only has she received support and encouragement from countless strangers, but now the state’s legislature is looking into the policy at the Deborah Brown Community School which bans  “hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, mohawks and other faddish styles.”  State Sen. Jabar Shumate and state Rep. Kevin Matthews issued statements in response to national outrage over a Tulsa charter school’s policy.

Matthews, the vice chair of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus, wants to facilitate a discussion over the policy.

“We are working to bring the school administrators and board members together with the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus members to coordinate a review of these policies,” said Matthews, D-Tulsa. “Although direct legislative action is not an option of addressing the issue in the short term, school policies can be addressed, reviewed, or changed by the Deborah Brown Community School’s internal board.”

The Deborah Brown Community School has a track record of academic excellence, Matthews said.

“The Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus values education as one of our top priorities,” Matthews said. “The Deborah Brown Community School has a proven track record for academic success, but we do not want their reputation marred by controversy that could be resolved by all parties having a meaningful dialogue.”

Shumate said he is concerned about the 7-year-old girl’s self-esteem.

“Our hearts go out to the parents and family of this 7-year-old promising student,” said Shumate, D-Tulsa. “We don’t want any child to feel like their educational opportunities are being infringed upon.”

Pittman, the chair of the caucus, said she wants to review the policies to ensure they are appropriate.

“We always want to promote culturally and linguistically sensitive policies because we believe all children can learn,” said Pittman, D-Oklahoma City.

Although Tiana is no longer at the Deborah Brown Community School, it would be interesting to see if the policy will change and benefit other students attending.

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