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


Controversy continues to brew over an Oklahoma charter school’s dress code banning “hairstyles such as dreadlocks, afros, mohawks and other faddish styles.”

The policy rose to national prominence last week when 7-year-old Tiana Parker spoke out about being reprimanded by Deborah Brown Community School officials for wearing dreadlocks.

State legislators are trying to coordinate a review of 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 state Senator Kevin Matthews (D-Tulsa) in a statement released to media. “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.”

Anastasia Pittmann (D-Oklahoma City), who chairs the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus, said she also wants to review the policy.

“We always want to promote culturally and linguistically sensitive policies because we believe all children can learn,” Pittman noted in a statement.

Tiana’s parents pulled her out of Deborah Brown after school officials said her hair was not “presentable.” The school’s Facebook page appears to have been deleted after a barrage of comments accused the dress code of being racist. A petition calling for the school to publicly apologize to Parker and change its policy had amassed more than 19,000 signatures by Monday afternoon.

“The fact remains that two of the hairstyles spelled out as being unacceptable in this school’s policy are worn almost exclusively by African-Americans with natural hair. It might as well say that black girls must have their hair chemically straightened or covered with a weave in order to pass muster,” reads the petition.

A school board meeting that will address the policy is reportedly taking place Monday evening, according to the Tulsa World. A public relations firm that represents Langston University, which sponsors Deborah Brown Community School, released the following statement about the meeting, per Tulsa World:

After a discussion between Langston University President Kent Smith and the superintendent of the school, Ms. Deborah Brown, it was mutually agreed that the policy in question should be changed. … On Monday, Ms. Brown will propose a policy change to the school’s board during a special meeting. Smith said he supports the change in the policy because it reflects an important value at Langston University to respect the individuality of students.
Still, a flyer that was found at the school suggests otherwise.

“Please Read: Our society continues to become more and more permissive,” the flyer reads, according to Tulsa World. “However, it is an individual’s right to choose to leave any organization if they do not want to conform to an established rule. As difficult as it is in some cases, DBCS will continue to enforce our stated policy regarding our dress code.”


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