Mother Calls for Change After 4-Year-Old Son Forced to Remove Braids From Hair at West Side School

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A school on Chicago’s West Side is facing criticism and calls for change after it refused to allow a 4-year-old boy to wear braids in his hair.

Ida Nelson’s son Jett went to school earlier this month with braids in his hair, and after he arrived, she says that her son’s school gave her a call.

“He had gone to school with braids, and then I got a phone call from the dean stating that the hairstyle was a violation of school policy,” she says.

Jett attends preschool classes at Providence St. Mel, a private and predominately Black school on the city’s West Side. According to Nelson, the school says that there is a strict policy about hair, specifically stipulating that boys are not allowed to wear braids.

Nelson had to go to the school to remove her son’s braids.

“I said ‘wow, I was not aware that we were still policing childrens’ hair in 2021,” she says.

The story first gained local attention earlier this month when Jett's story was published and reported by Block Club Chicago.

Earlier this month, the state of Connecticut became the eighth to pass the “Crown Act,” which prohibits race-based hair discrimination. Last year, Illinois lawmakers started the process of bringing that same law into effect in this state.

As that legislation makes its way through the legislature, Nelson thought that recent discussions about Black men and women wearing their natural hair, or other hairstyles, would mean that her son’s choice of hairstyle wouldn’t have been an issue.

“This being an African-American school in a West Side community, I was really surprised with that,” she says.

The school’s principal told NBC 5 that they are reviewing all school policies. Nelson applauds the review, and hopes that it ends with changes to the school’s policy.

“It might make the children feel a little bit happier or empowered,” she says. “There’s no detriment to changing the rule.”

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