Cassandra Forrester anticipates sending her two children to St. Jude Regional Catholic School in Rockville, but she also has concerns about their hairstyle policy. Here’s what it said when she read the school’s Student/ Parent Handbook: “hair should be neat and clean” and “any forms of braids, cornrows, twists, or dreadlocks are prohibited.”
Forrester says the very hairstyles St. Jude seemed to outlaw were the same natural styles her children wear. She considered it discriminatory.
“We want to set them up for success to do the best that they can, and if this is setting them at a disadvantage on something they have absolutely no control over, this is how they naturally are… it just made me feel upset and protective as a parent,” said Forrester.
That’s when Forrester reached out to Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando for guidance on how to address her concerns. Jawando and Councilmember Nancy Navarro had co-sponsored the CROWN Act.[CROWN stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair] The law prohibits discrimination against natural hairstyles typically worn by African Americans. That includes afros, braids, cornrows, and twists. The CROWN Act was first passed in Montgomery County in 2019 before being adopted throughout the entire state.
“It provides discrimination protection, but it also sends a very strong message that you are enough, you are worthy the way you were created, and you should be able to interact in the world in anyway as anyone else,” said Jawando.
Jawando sent a letter to St. Jude Regional Catholic School and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington on July 7, urging them to end the school’s policy prohibiting natural hairstyles. Jawando says the response was positive.
“I received a letter from St. Jude saying that they do not enforce the written policy and that they will be removing it from the Parent/Student Handbook,” said Jawando in a Tweet.
Forrester explains how Jawando helped address her concerns and how the private school changed their handbook policies to be more inclusive and culturally sensitive.
After being contacted by a constituent, I sent a letter to @StJudeRCS @WashArchdiocese urging them to end the school’s policy prohibiting natural & protective hairstyles. Sad this is still happening but I'm proud we've passed @thecrownact in Montgomery County & in Maryland. ✊🏾👑 https://t.co/OkTPLIeOI6 pic.twitter.com/mJXiiMtx5e
— Will Jawando (@willjawando) July 8, 2021
in the first place and build greater understanding about about the depths of this type of discrimination. I want to thank the courageous mom who reached out to bring this to light. As Dr. King often said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that." 👏🏾👑
— Will Jawando (@willjawando) July 10, 2021
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington oversees St. Jude Regional Catholic School, and they also responded on the schools’ behalf in an emailed statement to MyMCM stating:
“Catholic Schools of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington are rooted in Gospel principles, policies and practices that value our human diversity and uphold the equal dignity of every person. Furthermore, each school monitors and revises as necessary its handbook policies to ensure they are inclusive and culturally sensitive, while also encouraging modesty in dress, personal appearance, and conduct as part of the formation of our young people to prepare them for the professional world as an adult. Although it was unaware of any complaints, leadership at St. Jude Regional Catholic School in Rockville was already in the process of reviewing and updating its school handbook to ensure that cultural expression in hairstyles is expressly accommodated in its written policies, as has been the existing practice at St. Jude’s. Our schools remain committed to honoring their diversity, as evidenced by the ongoing training and support that is provided to our staff to ensure that our school environments are culturally inclusive.
We also sent Councilmember Jawando a letter in response to the issue“.
Click here to view the CROWN Act legislation.
See related posts below:
Bill Prohibiting Discrimination Based on Natural Hairstyles Passed Unanimously by Council