Update: School issues statement on hair controversy

Faith Christian Academy says 12-year-old won't be expelled

ORLANDO, Fla. - The Orlando school at the center of a national controversy over a 12-year-old girl's hairstyle issued a statement about the ordeal Wednesday night.

Last week, a school adviser at Faith Christian Academy asked Vanessa Van Dyke's mother to either straighten or cut her daughter's hair or risk expulsion. The family was outraged, saying her hair is natural and shouldn't have to be changed.

The school got so much attention because of the controversy, it hired a public relations firm. That firm released it's first statement Wednesday night saying:

"Thank you for the opportunity to respond. We are working with Mr. and Mrs. Kent. We regret that there was a misunderstanding that Vanessa would be expelled. We continue to look forward to seeing Vanessa at our school. We appreciate their kind comments regarding the school and education that Vanessa has received. The staff and faculty at Faith Christian Academy work to create a loving environment that accepts all students from all ethnicities."

The statement from the school came just hours after the girl's family released a statement of their own saying they don't blame the school for the controversy, just the administrators.

"Faith Christian Academy is a quality school that has given much to Vanessa's education. The Teaching and auxiliary staff I have met over the years have been warm, supportive, disciplined, and knowledgeable educators. My wife and I have had no wish to besmirch the name of this school. We regret that we had to "go public" with this issue, but the school's administration left us with no alternative.

We stand firm in the belief that schools should celebrate cultural, ethnic, and racial differences and capitalize on them to enrich the curriculum and education of young people. Instead of labeling Vanessa's hair as a so-called "distraction", the "distracted" students should be taught about this aspect in history of the African American experience.This is the history of a people that makes up almost ? of this school's student body.

Black Americans in slavery had to alter their natural appearance to be "presentable" as servants in the homes of their white masters. Since slavery's end, African Americans have had to spend an inordinate fraction of their budgets on hair products and processes to make themselves acceptable to the white majority of society. Because white society has made African Americans feel ashamed of their natural appearance, many African Americans have damaged or lost their hair using harsh chemicals to straighten their hair.

Teaching bullies about the tradition of oppression they honor when they mock hair like Vanessa's could go a long way toward ending the bullying. Suppressing differences by calling them a distraction licenses the puerile racist bullying of 12 and 13 year-olds.

Teach about differences and celebrate them. Teach about the wrongs done to a people made to feel inferior and ugly because of who they are. Teach them to see the beauty in difference. Teach the bullies to grow up. Teach them that they associate themselves with Nazi anthropologists and racists bigots when they mock racial differences."

The statement is signed Sam and Sabrina Kent.

Local 6 reached out to Vanessa's mother, who said they going to talk about their options over Thanksgiving.

"Right now, having a peaceful Thanksgiving with our family is what we are trying to concentrate on, "she told Local 6's Erik Sandoval. "Sam and I just wanted it known that besmirching the school was not our intention.  It never was.  We had nowhere else to turn with our situation."

Watch Local 6 for more on this story.

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