A white cosmetology teacher in New York has been accused of making repeated, racist remarks about a Black student’s hair.
According to CBS News, the 17-year-old student filed a discrimination claim with New York state after her teacher continuously referred to her hair as “ethnic” during cosmetology class at Sachem East High School.
The teacher suggested that the student’s hair wasn’t “American” or “normal,” according to her mother.
“She said, so, if my hair is ethnic hair, then, you know, what type of hair do you have? And she told my daughter she had American hair, she had normal hair,” mother Cindy Covington said. “She said to her, well, you know I’m American too?”
“There are different textures of hair,” Covington continued. “I would love to know — what is American hair? What is that? I really would love to know. What is ‘normal’ hair?”
The mother reported the remarks to the principal multiple times, but nothing was done.
“The contrast to ‘American’ or ‘normal,’ saying they’re non-normal, non-American — what does that mean? And, number two, once the mom explains it to the school, for them to do nothing about it and it happen again implies that they were deliberately indifferent to her complaints,” attorney Andrew Lieb said.
In a statement, the superintendent, Dr. Christopher Pellettieri, said the district is “reviewing the alleged complaint.”
Covington said the teacher claimed that the term “ethnic hair” is used in cosmetology.
“There’s coarse hair. There’s thin hair,” Lieb said.
The family is seeking an apology, sensitivity training, and legal damages in the suit.
“She felt like she was the outcast in the classroom. She felt uncomfortable. She wanted to leave the class. She started asking to wear wigs. She was constantly asking for her hair to be straightened,” Covington said of her daughter.
According to CBS News, “New York’s CROWN Act equates hair discrimination with race discrimination.” The state’s Division of Human Rights will investigate the complaint and decide whether to mediate a resolution or take it to trial.