Durham parents protest after principal makes students remove cultural headdresses

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DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – The principal of Durham’s School for Creative Studies came under fire Monday from about two dozen protesters outraged after she recently demanded several female students remove a cultural headdress.

Principal Renee Price made the students remove cultural headdresses known as “gele.”

“They’re having to alter who they are in order to assimilate into society and I don’t feel like that’s right,” said parent Dosali Reed-Bandele.

For one hour Monday, the parents rallied outside the cafeteria, with permission from Durham Public Schools, in full view of the students inside.

“They were told that by it covering their entire head it could be a situation where they may have had weapons,” according to parent Cimarron Reed-Bandele.

Durham Public Schools bans students from wearing headdress, except for religious and medical reasons. In this case school leaders said the girls failed to get permission before wearing geles to school in recognition of Black History Month.

The parents who showed up here at this protest told me it’s bigger than a head wrap. In fact, they are demanding DPS change its dress code.

“The solution is for them to be able to express themselves culturally,” said Cimarron Reed-Bandele.

Their message has already gone up the ladder to the superintendent, who issued a statement to WNCN saying the parents’ concerns will be shared with a committee currently considering revisions to the Student Code of Conduct.

“I have heard the concerns of parents and community members who feel our policy prohibiting hats and head wear is too strict or that it infringes on student’s cultural expression. I understand their concerns and assure them that I will share their thoughts with the committee that is currently reviewing and suggesting revisions to our Code of Student Conduct.

In the meantime, I appreciate both the initiative shown by the young women at SCS and the school’s willingness to give these student leaders an opportunity to incorporate their ideas into a school-wide program. The gele, its history and how to wear it are now part of the school’s Black History Month activities for both middle school and high school students.”

Dr. Bert L’Homme, Superintendent of Durham Public Schools

The committee will meet to consider changes Thursday at 4 p.m.

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