A Michigan dad is reportedly considering pulling his 7-year-old biracial daughter out of public schools after a classmate and a teacher cut her hair — in an incident described as a “modern-day scalping.”
The hair-raising drama began March 24, when Jurnee Hoffmeyer arrived at her Mount Pleasant home from Ganiard Elementary School with much of her locks shorn on one side.
Her dad, Jimmy, told The Associated Press that she told him that a classmate used scissors to cut her hair on the school bus.
Hoffmeyer complained to the principal about the incident and took Jurnee to a salon, where a stylist cut the hair on her other side to make the different lengths less obvious.
But two days later, the girl arrived home with her hair cut on one side again.
“She was crying,” Hoffmeyer told The AP. “She was afraid of getting in trouble for getting her hair cut.
He added: “I asked what happened and said, ‘I thought I told you no child should ever cut your hair.’ She said, ‘But dad, it was the teacher.’ The teacher cut her hair to even it out.”
Hoffmeyer is working with the National Parents Union, a network of parent organizations and activists that advocate to improve the quality of life for kids.
“Jurnee was very clear that she didn’t want to look like a boy,” Bernita Bradley, Midwest delegate for the NPU, told Michigan Live.
Bradley described the incidents as “modern-day scalping” and said the matter is racially motivated.
“That’s exactly what it is. It equates to the fact that you don’t like something that naturally grows out of my body and to ostracize me, you scalp me,” she added.
Hoffmeyer said the explanations he got from the principal and district don’t cut it — and is considering enrolling Jurnee in a private school.
The school “said the little girl stole the scissors off the teacher’s desk, and they were going to talk to the parents and deal with it accordingly,” he said.
Later, the principal told him the most that could happen to the library teacher was a note in her work file, Hoffmeyer said.
“She said she didn’t have the authority to do anything,” he added. “She kept asking me what she could do to make it go away.”
Hoffmeyer said he filed report with police, but as of Monday no one had contacted him to follow up on the formal complaint.
He said he got a call from the district’s superintendent, who offered to have “I’m sorry” cards mailed to the family.
“I got mad and hung up,” said Hoffmeyer, who is black and white. Jurnee’s mom is white. “I’m not one to try to make things about race. I’ve pretty much grown up with only white people, myself.”
Hoffmeyer, who has two other daughters, ages 8 and 4, said the girl who cut Jurnee’s hair is white and that the teacher who cut it also is white.
“Journee and her siblings are literally on edge,” Bradley told Michigan Live. “Jurnee just doesn’t have the same spark in her smile anymore, and her dad said the most traumatic thing to him right now is the fact that Jurnee won’t sleep by herself. Jurnee feels infiltrated. Her whole demeanor is different.”
Mount Pleasant, which is about 150 miles northwest of Detroit, has a population of about 25,000 residents — about 4 percent of whom are black, according to the US Census.
On Tuesday, district Superintendent Jennifer Verleger said Jurnee’s teacher was aware of the employee’s plan to cut her hair.
“Regardless of their good intentions, these actions were unacceptable and show a lack of judgment on the part of our two employees,” Verleger said in a statement.
”Both are being reviewed for further disciplinary actions in accordance without school policies and procedures,” she added.
Meanwhile, the National Parents Union is working to raise awareness for the Crown Act, a bill that would ban race-based hair discrimination, according to Michigan Live.
Crown refers to “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.”
States including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Washington, Virginia, Colorado and Maryland have adopted the Crown Act as law.
“It’s something that needs to go into effect to protect students,” Bradley told Michigan Live. “Who would think that in 2021 we are protecting people over hair?”
She said Jurnee’s ordeal has galvanized movement for the Crown Act’s adoption.
“When you mess with our babies, you mess with us,” she said.