Fresno Unified reviewing dress code policy

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Fresno Unified reviewing dress code policy
It covers everything from clothing to piercings, but haircuts have drawn the most attention lately.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- 8-year-old Layla Sysaknois missed two weeks of school at Columbia Elementary after her mother says she was placed on in-school suspension because of her haircut.

"I've been told I either have to cut it all off or I have to wait until her hair grows back completely before she can attend school again," said Tara Sysaknoi.

Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Bob Nelson disputes the mother's claim. It's part of the reason he called for a news conference earlier today.

"There was no action taken against that student at Columbia," said Nelson. "It was simply a misunderstanding of the family. (The District) certainly never asked the child to remain out of school."

Erika Paggett says her 8th-grade son was placed on in school suspension at Tenaya Middle School for a haircut which a teacher deemed "distracting."

She basically said if other students see his hair and they can't have their hair that way then it disrupts the learning process or the educational process," said Paggett.

Paggett's attorney says it's important the district provides guidance on this issue.

"We hope at the end of this review process they don't implement another dress code policy that is discretionary that can be used in a way that will discriminate against black hairstyles," said Abre Conner, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

While the dress code review is underway, Nelson says he has told schools to suspend enforcement of provisions specific to hair.

As it's written right now we do not believe that those values necessarily allow alignment with respect to cultural responsiveness," said Nelson.

The dress code was last reviewed 15 years ago.

Nelson expects the district's review of the dress code policy to be complete in the summer.