On yesterday, a stakeholder of Narvie Harris Elementary School in Dekalb County, GA was shocked at the lack of cultural sensitivity towards Black children and cultural hairstyles. From braids with beads and bows for girls to high top fades, boxes and even parts (line design) for boys, photos of Black children with nice hairstyles were placed around the school with signage stating,”appropriate vs inappropriate.”
One parent asked, “what school leader or teacher determined this presentation to be appropriate for children to see when they enter school?
Based on information about Narvie Harris Elementary School from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, it would seem that the school leadership wouldn’t have policing student hairstyles as a top priority.
But this is a problem in many public schools, not just Narvie Harris. Many public traditional schools are too busy focused on the outer appearances. School environments should be welcoming and empowering. Targeting Black children and cultural hairstyles, which to be honest most of the staff members probably had themselves as children, is insensitive to our culture and damaging to the social and emotional intelligence of these students.
The theme school is appealing to parents because they seek a place of refuge in schools that will open doors for their children. However, the allowed, cultural insensitive actions of Narvie Harris brings a damper to school choice. This no different than the charter school in Atlanta that had a teacher have students in Black face.
Local charter and non traditional school supporters say they don’t want this type of insensitive action to take away from the great work magnet and other non traditional schools in Dekalb County are doing.
Why do we allow Black children to be abused in schools when society already hits them with enough cultural appropriation?
And yes, Black people can enforce cultural appropriations through cultural insensitive acts such as the photos posted at Narvie Harris. The concern isn’t the fact that the theme school in Dekalb County has a different dress and discipline policy than others.
It’s most concerning that Black school leaders allowed the posting of photos of Black students, both girls and boys, with appropriate vs inappropriate hairstyles.
Parents and community stakeholders have taken their concerns to social media outlets in outrage. Many followers of our EdLanta Facebook page also commented to our recent post in outrage.
One Narvie Harris PTA leader commented defending the photos. They stated that parents are aware there is a particular dress code for the school. School districts fail at effectively engaging Black and Brown parents in school turnaround work involving policies.
It’s disappointing that the school PTA, designed to advocate for students, teachers and parents, isn’t taking up the mantle to say, this policy or “requirement” doesn’t fit SEL (social emotional learning) best practices. However, it’s not surprising to parents and Georgia residents who are still disappointed in recent troubles of the Georgia PTA. Apparently, poor representation of the National organization is still taking place in local Georgia PTA groups and our school cultures are impacted by this.
Dekalb officials stated to the AJC that this is what happens with “non” traditional schools. I beg to differ. For example, Dr. Carstarphen and APS has an Office of Innovation that provides oversight, support and assistance to non traditional schools.
This type of display of cultural insensitivity is due to a lack of oversight, accountability, professional decorum and quite frankly care and concern for the social and emotional impact of Black children by this school’s leadership and PTA.
Stakeholders are encouraged to reach out to the school leadership until the policy is addressed and changed. Narvie Harris Elementary School, (678) 676 – 9202.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.