The popular African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” is a phrase we’re quick to throw around. We’ve all said it, and to most degrees, even live by it. But does the village step in when it comes to a child’s hair? Where do we draw the line?
Yesterday, we asked you if it’s okay for a teacher to style a child’s hair without the parent’s permission in response to the recent controversy that set social media in overdrive. An elementary school teacher took it upon herself to detangle, twist, and style her student’s hair and then posted the hairstyle on Facebook. We’re not certain if the instructor asked permission or not, but it begs the question, is this appropriate? Is this a teachable moment for the village, or sheer foolishness? At press time, the majority of you agreed, and although I’m childless, and not an educator, I agree too.
Indeed, I’m not saying untouched hair is less beautiful or that it resembles child neglect (maybe they were rushing to leave the house, maybe the girl didn’t want to sit to get her hair combed, who knows), but if a child has unkempt dirty hair, I’m unapologetically going in.
When my parents were young, teachers, administrators, neighbors, even strangers reprimanded them when they acted out of line. We live in a different day and I don’t equate an afro to “crazy hair”, but the concept is similar: you do what you can to help rear a child in need.
Here’s how Renai Mason, an elementary school teacher in Bronx, New York explained it: “Students are reckless when it comes to bullying each other about their personal appearance and anything I can do to avoid that shame I will,” she says. “I've never asked permission to give them lotion when they are ashy, deodorant when they smell, or re-attach hair pieces when their hair falls out, and I haven't gotten any backlash.” In fact, Mason only draws the line when it comes to using combs or brushes because lice could spread. In her world, anything outside of offering medicine and drugs is fair game.
On the flip side, Courtney Mansouri who is an HR administrator for Baltimore City says, “the teacher completely stepped out of her duties as a professional. If the child's hair was not effecting her abilities to teach the [classroom], she should not have addressed her hair.”
Fair enough. But would we have this conversation if it were clothing that appeared disheveled, or if the student were hungry? Are we raising our eyebrows because hair is sensitive issue in our community? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Perhaps more importantly, and I think most of us would agree, is that if the teacher posted the image on Facebook without permission she was out of order. It shames the child and the family and that’s never a good look. In the grand scheme of things, a childs hair is messy more often than not. They roll around, they play in things they shouldn’t, and frankly, it can be a lot for a parent to regularly manage. So unless you’re planning to make drastic changes (read: taking advantage of the village), there’s no harm in adding a few ponytails...without permission.
On the surface, telling a teacher not to care for her students’ wellbeing (including physical and emotional needs) seems counterintuitive and hinders the supportive “village” we strive to be a part of.