A teacher was sued after using a black magic marker to color in a student’s hair.
The parents of a seventh-grader have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against their son’s school in Pearland, Texas. The suit names the school district as well as administrators and the teacher involved.
In May, the teacher, Pearland ISD’s Jeanette Peterson, used a permanent marker to color on a black student’s head. At the time, she told the student, Julez Trice, that his haircut was in violation of the school’s dress code. She also said he would be disciplined if the shape cut into his hair was not filled in.
After the incident, Peterson was placed on leave.
The lawsuit describes the act as “racist,” and names Peterson along with two others. They include Tony Barcelona, head principal of Berry Miller Junior High. Also named in the suit is the school’s discipline clerk, Helen Day.
“He came over and said, ‘You have two options: You can either go to (in-school suspension) or color it in,’” Trice told KTRK, presumably referring to the school’s principal. Trice also noted that the incident had become the “talk of the school that day and the day after.”
Pearland ISD issued a statement saying that the district does not condone what happened. They also said it was not in alignment with what they consider appropriate action for dress code violations.
The statement said that they “humbly apologized” and “expressed great regret” about what happened.
The dress code does, however, state that hair must adhere to certain standards.
“Extreme hairstyles such as carvings, mohawks, spikes, etc. are not allowed,” it says.
Technically, the boy’s style, albeit subtle, would be considered a hair carving – which does violate the school’s rules. However, how such violations should be handled is unclear.
The lawsuit, initiated by Trice’s parents and their lawyer, was filed after attempts were made to resolve the issue with the school district to no response.
It is not uncommon for children of color to have designs carved into their hair. The fade style cut “is common with African American youth,” according to the lawsuit. Additionally it “did not depict anything violent, gang-related, obscene or otherwise offensive.” As such, the family did not think the haircut was in violation of any school policies.
KHOU reported that the principal and teacher laughed while discipline clerk Day filled in the design with a black Sharpie.
The lawsuit alleges that Trice “felt extremely degraded” by their actions, suffering “great embarrassment, shame, anxiety, and depression.” It also states that the marker did not actually cover the design, but rather made it “more prominent.”