1. This is 12-year-old Vanessa VanDyke.
She is an honor student at Faith Christian Academy in Orlando, and as you can see she has an amazing head of hair.
2. Vanessa loves her natural hair, and has been wearing it this way since the beginning of the school year.
“It says that I’m unique,” she told WKMG Local 6 News. “It’s puffy and I like it that way.”
3. But not everyone at her school is a fan of her hair.
Vanessa says that when she went to school administrators to complain about being picked on because of her hair, she was told that her hair is a “distraction” and that she should change it, rather than her bullies admonished for their behavior. “They say…you should make it straight, because it’s too puffy,” Vanessa said.
The family says that they have been given one week to change Vanessa’s hair, or she will be expelled from Faith Christian Academy. BuzzFeed contacted the school for comment and was told that they likely would not release one.
4. Sadly, this story is not unique. 7-year-old Tiana Parker was sent home from her Tulsa school because of her dreadlocks.
Tiana was moved to tears over the matter during a television interview.
5. This pressure to assimilate and adhere to western standards of beauty is why many people of color began straightening their hair in the first place.
Countless naturals have stories of being discriminated against at school, in the workplace, and even within their own families. Vanessa’s case inspired several to share their stories on Twitter with the hashtag #LivingWhileNatural.
@Karnythia Yep. My former boss once called me nappy-headed in front of about a dozen coworkers. #livingwhilenatural
#livingwhilenatural you may be the smartest, most capable, dignified woman in the room but you are never ” professional”
When family members suggest that you straighten your hair for an “important event”… #livingwhilenatural
Harassed for 2 months by Principal & teachers because of my dreads. Finally stopped when I threatened to call the ACLU. #livingwhilenatural
Look at #livingwhilenatural and understand that we all have a story because it’s common for us to be shamed for our hair.
11. Vanessa’s mother has vowed to fight for her daughter’s right to wear her hair as she pleases, saying “she is beautiful the way she is.”
Let your soul glow, girl!
12. UPDATE - Nov. 27, 11:35 a.m. ET: School officials say they are no longer threatening to expell Vanessa. Administrators released the following statement to WKMG:
“We’re not asking her to put products in her hair or cut her hair. We’re asking her to style her hair within the guidelines according to the school handbook.”