A Black Student Was Frustrated With His Hair, So His Minnesota Teacher Cut It
Schools and the educators they hire should have the training to support students as they face all kinds of challenges in the classroom. But a recent incident between a Minnesota teacher and a 12-year-old student proves that so many teachers are unprepared, especially when it comes to Black students.
The student, whose name has been withheld because of his age, left for school on April 11th with an afro. When he returned, it was gone. When his parents asked what had happened, they were told that their son had a "breakdown" in class because he was unhappy with his hair and he began cutting it. His teacher "helped him" by cutting his hair, as well.
"He said, 'Are you guys going to be mad?' We were like, 'For what?' He pulls his hat off and goes, 'My teacher and me cut my hair,'" the boy's mother, Tadow McReynolds, told Minnesota's CBS 4.
For the student's mothers, all of it came as a surprise. "It was actually growing pretty well. Actually, he was thinking about all kinds of styles he wanted to do with it," said Daetney McReynolds, the student's mother.
They were also upset that the school didn't contact them to let them know their son had a breakdown at school. They were upset that the teacher didn't find a more effective way to help their son aside from cutting his hair. "What made her think that this is OK?" said Tadow. "If you were going to help my child, why wouldn't you do it the proper way, common-sense way, the helpful way? By getting him some real help?"
Many of the details of the story are still being withheld but the incident sheds light on the lack of support Black male students have across the country, and the role that culturally competent teachers might play in situations like these, especially in Twin City Schools. Organizations like Black Men Teach call attention to the importance of Black boys having educators who look like them.
Unsurprisingly, after seeing the family's story on social media, William Baker, a long-time public school teacher and KMOJ Radio host, offered a better solution.
"It just demoralized him, just take his pride away," said Baker in an interview with CBS 4. "And now his hair is being put in a situation where people are dictating how he should look."
Baker connected the family with a local barber he trusted, Barber Big Lew who gave the boy a new haircut. Since then, the 12-year-old's mother, Tadow, has kept the public updated through social media with videos of his "fresh new haircut."
He's headed to a new school, growing his hair out again, and is thankful for all the people who supported his story. "Thank you, guys—Tik Tok and Facebook—Thank you for all the support checking on me. I love you guys," said the student before shouting out specific people who supported the family, including William Baker and Big Lew.
His mother echoed the sentiment in the caption. She posted a separate video on Tik Tok informing viewers that the family is thankful for all the support. They will share the rest of the details as soon as possible. "If any information can be dropped which y'all been waiting for—which is names and schools and all of that—once the 'say so' has been given, again, that will be dropped to the public when I'm able to," said Tadow noting the support across social media.
Black students deserve teachers who can develop solutions that consider their culture. Parents should be informed of their children's challenges in the classroom and be contacted to create solutions. But the support this 12-year-old and his family have received in Black communities in Minnesota and beyond is important.
The institutions where we send our children often fail them. But there are always members of Black communities who are ready to stand up and fill in the gaps.