Black student removed from class because of hair care product

On the surface, the removal of an 8-year-old African-American girl from her classroom had to do with a hair product and her teacher’s physical reaction to it.

But for her parents, the incident that has kept the girl out of Seattle’s Thurgood Marshall Elementary School for two weeks is a lesson in what can happen when people won’t communicate.

Charles Mudede said he had a lot of questions when his daughter, the only black child in her advanced-placement class, came home from school last month and announced her teacher made her leave the classroom because the girl’s hair was making the teacher sick.

The girl was moved to the hallway, then another class.

Why did the teacher think the problem was his daughter’s hair? Why hadn’t the school called the parents? How could the girl return to her own class if they didn’t first figure out what had made the teacher sick?

What investigation was being done to pinpoint the source of the problem? And, finally, why did the school seem oblivious to the racial overtones of a white teacher singling out her only black student?

Mudede said the situation escalated because no one at the school or the district would answer his questions about what happened in the classroom and why.

That left the parents with an 8-year-old’s version of events and concerns their daughter would process the situation in a way that left her feeling diminished.

“The issue I had, and still hold,” Mudede said, “is there should have been a little more cultural sensitivity in this issue.”

On Friday, the NAACP announced it would file a complaint about the situation with the U.S. Department of Education.

The family has engaged an attorney and is trying to arrange a meeting with the district, which now says it is limited in what it can say because of the threat of a lawsuit.

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