Last week, seven-year-old Tiana Parker was sent home from school for wearing locs. Now, her mother is sharing what she's done to comfort her daughter and how to raise our girls to understand that beauty comes from within.
As a parent, it's nerve-wracking to receive a call saying that your child has been sent home from school. Miranda Parker, a mom of three, received such a phone call last week and learned that it wasn't because her seven-year-old daughter Tiana had misbehaved in class or forgotten her homework. It was because of her daughter's hairstyle.
Yes, little Tiana was called out because it was the school's policy that students cannot wear loc hairstyles. Tiana's parents have since enrolled their daughter into a new school, where luckily she has been welcomed with open arms and is thriving. We spoke with Ms. Parker about what she's done to comfort her daughter and how we can raise our girls to understand that beauty comes from within.
ESSENCE.com: When you first found out that your daughter was sent home from school because of her locs, what went through your mind?
PARKER: When my husband first called me at work and told me that we had to remove her from the school because they said that she can't have dreads, I was pretty upset. I didn't understand. Tiana had her locs last year and the school is run by an African American staff so I was kind of confused. I tried to recall what I remember the rules to be. What I remember reading is that boys couldn't have dreads, girls couldn't have weaves longer than shoulder-length and that hair had to be natural color. I called the school and Ms. Vickie answered the phone and I asked her what did Tiana's dreads have to do with her education. And she said, "Well, it's in the policy." I told her that the policy says that boys can't have locs and she said, "Well, I'll let you talk to Mr. Jones." So I talked to him and he said that we could meet in person to talk. I called my husband back and we discussed it and we just felt like we should go ahead and withdraw her. So I called Mr. Jones back to cancel the meeting and I explained to him that we are just going to withdraw her because we feel like she will be mistreated if we leave her at Deborah Brown Community School. His response was "Okay." He never said anything to reassure me as her mom that she would be safe and happy at their school. The response was just, "Okay" which really surprised me. And that was the end of that.
ESSENCE.com: So, is the policy about locs in fact for males and females?
PARKER: That is the way that they are explaining it now, but Tiana has had her locs in since March of this year. When she first got them, she came home happy because her teacher thought her hair looked so cute and she got a lot of compliments on it. We assumed everything was okay.
ESSENCE.com: Where does the issue stand now that it has been all over the media? Has the school reached out to you?
PARKER: No, not at all. My 7-year-old daughter had her self-esteem torn down by an adult without hesitation and without her feelings being taken into consideration at all. The school didn't even allow us to, as parents, explain the situation to her at home. She was already sad when she got home because on the first day of school they told her, "You have to change your hair for you to continue to come to this school." When Tiana heard that, she thought that she was going to have to cut her hair because when she asked for locs, I explained to her that it was a permanent change and if you choose later on that you don't want locs anymore, you will have to cut them out.
At this point, we just feel like our story needs to be heard because other little girls out there may be feeling some type of way about their hair or clothing. By telling our story and speaking out, it could give those other girls confidence to love themselves and their hair. Right now, I really just feel grateful for all of the people who are showing us love and supporting Tiana and our family through this situation.
ESSENCE.com: I love that Tiana came to you on her own and wanted to loc her hair. Where did she get the inspiration come from?
PARKER: We have a family friend who has locs. Tiana said to us, "I want my hair like that." So I went on YouTube and I showed her videos by Franchesca Ramsey of Chescalocs. I showed Tiana how Franchesca could make her locs curly and try all different styles so she could see what her hair would look like in the future. Tiana was so excited about that and that's what really helped her make the decision for herself.
ESSENCE.com: As a mother and as a Black woman, what is the bigger lesson from this for you?
PARKER: It makes me feel like I'm doing a good job as a mother. I want to be able to continue to uplift and support my children and praise God and help them do that. I just love to support my children in whatever they want to do and not try to mold them into what society wants them to be.
ESSENCE.com: How is Tiana doing? How is she reacting to this and adjusting to her new school?
PARKER: She's very happy at her new school. They embraced her really well right on the first day. Once we explained to them what happened at Deborah Brown, they couldn't believe it. They said her locs are beautiful and she is welcome here. Immediately she was smiling. She is very happy at the new school for sure.
ESSENCE.com: As a mother, what have you done to comfort her through this situation?
PARKER: I explained to her that no matter what people think of her, we are always going to love and support her and that she should continue to be the beautiful sweet little girl that she is. I had to explain to her that there will be negative comments said about you but the positive is going to completely outweigh the negative. We are continuing to reassure her that when her family supports her that's all that matters. I'm a firm believer that the support needs to start in the household. If this had happened to a child that didn't have parents to support them, the child's confidence could have been completely damaged. I believe that Tiana's future is not going to be jeopardized because she has a strong family behind her.
ESSENCE.com: Is there anything else that you want to share with other Black moms and little Black girls out there like your daughter?
PARKER: I just really want people to understand that it's about building self worth and self esteem in our children. No amount of makeup or any hairstyle is going to make you feel better about yourself. It has to start within. That's the message that we want to send. Be yourself. As long as you're a productive citizen of this world, you should be allowed to rock your locs and not have to worry about what anyone else thinks.