Student withdraws from Harding Academy after refusing to cut his hair

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis mother told FOX13 she was forced to withdraw her son from Harding Academy for not complying with the request to cut his hair.

“The rules are generally made to keep African Americans and people who are like us in certain places and in check and I’m just not ok with that,” Kameta Hopkins said.

Hopkins said those rules are sending children the wrong message.

Hopkins said she got a call on her son’s first day of school about his hair. The 9-year-old, who wears locks, started growing his hair out two years ago.

She told FOX13 that her son had to enroll in a different school at the last minute.

“He does not want a haircut, so I’m giving him the freedom to be an individual,” Hopkins said.

She took to social media after making a tough decision to withdraw her son Kamren from Harding Academy because his dreadlocks violate the school’s dress code.

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#Repost @ikameup_ ・・・ 🖤🖤 𝙋𝙇𝙀𝘼𝙎𝙀 𝙍𝙀𝘼𝘿 𝘼𝙉𝘿 𝙎𝙃𝘼𝙍𝙀!⁣ 🖤🖤 ⁣ Upon entering his 9th school year with @hardingacademy, I was forced to make an extremely tough decision as a parent, to withdraw Kamren from this learning institution for not complying with their request to cut Kamren’s HAIR. ⁣ ⁣ Yes, I said HAIR!⁣ ⁣ Do we not have enough to be concerned about right now? Are we not dealing with enough illness, turmoil, racial and social injustice, political chaos, etc.? For those of you that know Kamren personally, you know a very intelligent, athletic, proud, well-spoken, outspoken, and loving kid. As his mother, I know a part of Kamren that is sensitive, loving to his friends and family, a plethoras of unsolicited laughs, but still growing and developing into the person he will be. I don’t want that growth to be muddied by others suggesting that how he chooses to wear his hair doesn’t meet the standards of good enough. ⁣ ⁣ It pains me that something as trivial as HIS hair and how it makes others feel, has forced a decision that takes him away from all the things that are normal to his as a child. I’m actually more than pained, I’m pissed! 😡⁣ ⁣ Please let me know what you think about this issue and help me foster an open dialogue regarding whether you think HAIR matters in learning institutions (whether public or private).⁣ ⁣ #individualitymatters⁣ #selfexpressionmatters⁣ #deandrearnold⁣ #kadenbradford⁣ #tianaparker⁣ #austingarrick⁣ #andrewjohnson⁣ #boymom⁣ #dreads ⁣ #kidswithlocs ⁣ #kidswithdreads ⁣ @theellenshow ⁣ @fox13memphis ⁣ @wmcactionnews5 ⁣ @amiciatv #crownact @thecrownact @thecutlife @cohenforcongress

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“And if it means we have to make a decision to go to another institution that’s more accepting then that’s what I’m choosing to do to but it’s not doing much for his self-esteem or how he feels about his appearance as a person,” said Hopkins.

Kamren, a third-grader who’s now attending Downtown Elementary with Shelby County Schools, was in the middle of virtual learning when we spoke with his mother.

She said she is aware of Harding Academy’s dress code. It states “boys’ hair must not be longer than the eyebrow, top of the collar, or middle of the ear.”

“Rules need to be changed and updated sometimes,” Hopkins said.

She told FOX13 she started conversations with the district about a year and a half ago as Kamren’s hair grew longer. She said the last time she spoke to faculty about Kamren’s hair was before spring break. They were supposed to continue the conversation after spring break, but she said that never happened.

“To me, that’s teaching him that as you are your hair is not good enough over here, so you need to take that someplace else. I’m not ok with that,” Hopkins said.

FOX13 reached out to the school. Sheronda Holmes, Harding Academy Dean of Students and Director of Diversity and Inclusion sent the following statement:

We are always disappointed when a parent chooses to withdraw their child from Harding Academy. Our 2020-2021 handbook (presented and agreed to by all parents) states that boys’ hair must not be longer than the eyebrows, top of the collar, or middle of the ear. Students are not required to cut their hair if they style it during the school day in a way that meets the dress code. This policy applies to all male students regardless of age or race (SK-12).