A black student at a Christian school in Florida made national headlines this week after saying administrators threatened her with expulsion if she refused to cut or tame her hair.
The ultimatum was allegedly issued after 12-year-old Vanessa Van Dyke's mother complained about children bullying her daughter. The school reportedly responded to the mother's concerns by telling Vanessa to make her hair less distracting to students, saying it needed to be in compliance with the student handbook.
Vanessa initially told Orlando's WKMG-TV that her peers at Faith Christian Academy in Orlando tease her over her "puffy" hair, but that she likes her natural locks and doesn't want to cut or reshape them.
"First of all it's puffy and I like it that way and I know people will tease me about it because it's not straight or anything. I don't fit in," Vanessa said, adding that her hair makes her "unique."
Sabrina Kent, Vanessa's mother, said the school has instead seemingly blamed Vanessa for bullies' behavior.
"I'm going to fight for my daughter," a tearful Kent told WKMG. "If she wants her hair like that, she will keep her hair like that."
After the initial news report ran, officials at Faith Christian Academy issued a statement to WKMG saying they "are not asking her to put products in her hair or to cut her hair. We are asking her to style her hair within the guidelines according to the school handbook."
It's unclear whether that was the school's policy all along or if the request changed following local and national media coverage.
The student handbook states that "hair must be a natural color and must not be a distraction to include but not limited to: mohawks, shaved de-signs, rat tails, etc." It says violators will be met with disciplinary action.
The school is receiving negative reviews online from people who believe administrators discriminated against Vanessa. One comment on Yelp read, "A racist close minded school. Need I say more?" Another person wrote, "This school allows bullying."
The family will discuss their options over the Thanksgiving break.
A representative for Faith Christian Academy did not immediately return a request for comment from TheBlaze.
Featured image via WEAR-TV