Two Black Students Were Kicked Out Of A Vic School After They Challenged A Racist Dress Code

Highview College unenrolls Black students after racist braids school dress code row.

It’s the year of our Lord 2022 and yet Black students are still being kicked out of school for wearing braids.

Amayah and Safhira Rowe are in year 10 and 11. Their father is Ghanian, and they wear their hair in protective braids because that is what’s healthy for their African hair.

On Tuesday, they found out they had been unenrolled from Highview College (in rural Victoria, of course) after the school’s Principal Melinda Scash had an hour-long discussion with Amayah, 17, without a parent present.

Scash told the ABC in a statement that Amayah’s behaviour was “unacceptable”. She informed the sisters via a letter that they were no longer students at her school.

“I don’t appreciate her repeatedly calling me aggressive which is a well-perpetuated Black female stereotype which has been put on all women of colour,” Amayah has said about Scash, per the ABC.

“I don’t appreciate her … disregard for my personal or mental wellbeing, or my education. She is an educator.”

This is actually the result of a pretty messed up issue that’s been ongoing at Highview College for some time.

Back in July, the sisters were banned from attending class until they ditched their braids, which the school claimed violated its dress code. Instead, they were told to wear their hair tied back.

The thing is, Amayah and Safhira wear braids because without them, their natural hair is prone to breakage and takes way too long to style for school. Plus the weight of braids on their neck and head is heavy, so tying up braids is actually painful for them.

Principal Melinda Scash told the ABC at the time that Amayah and Safhira were not welcome back to the school until they complied with the dress code. According to the ABC, she removed their access to online schoolwork and they couldn’t get in touch with teachers. Their mum Rebecca Rowe was also reportedly banned from the school’s premises.

“We are accommodating for their cultural requirements, but there are still uniform protocols that need to be followed,” Scash insisted.

“They have not been excluded from school. This is their choice.”

I’m pretty sure these students did not choose their heritage, race, appearance, hair style or what is and isn’t comfortable for them to wear.

A policy that bans students from attending school if they wear their hair in a culturally significant style is straight up racist. And calling assertive women of colour “aggressive” is a form of tone policing, AKA getting caught up in the communication of an issue rather than its message.

Is it seriously more important for a child to wear a specific Eurocentric hairstyle, no matter how painful, than it is for them to attend school?

Rebecca made a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission. She claimed her daughters were being discriminated against because of their race, and told the ABC she felt the school’s response to the perceived uniform violation was “extreme”.

“Even if they were walking around with pink mohawks, this seems like an extreme punishment for something that doesn’t impose a threat to anyone,” she said.

“[Scash] is holding their education ransom until they do what she says.

“I have asked her to revisit the uniform policy and take input from people of diverse cultural and gender backgrounds to make sure it is as inclusive as possible.”

Amayah and Safhira (who is 16) ended up returning to the school with their hair still in braids — though they tried to compromise with a half-up, half-down style.

It was after this that Scash’s discussion with Amayah — without a parent — happened, and the students were “unenrolled”.

According to a statement provided to ABC, Scash said the girls’ “behaviour on Tuesday afternoon was unacceptable. They were unenrolled from Highview that afternoon”.

She maintained she unenrolled the girls because they had been enrolled in new schools.

While Safhira was enrolled in another school, which she was meant to start this week, Amayah wasn’t. According to Rebecca, Amayah suddenly found herself with no school. She actually needs to pass her end of year exams to be enrolled at her next school, so this expulsion is straight up affecting her chance at attending a new school — and she’s about to enter year 12. It’s a critical time for her education.

The Australian Human Rights Commission is reportedly now involved and trying to mediate between the Rowe family and Highview College.