A father in Michigan filed a $1m lawsuit against staff at his daughter’s school after the seven-year old biracial girl’s hair was cut without her parents’ permission.
The lawsuit filed on 14 September in federal court in Michigan, by Jimmy Hoffmeyer on behalf of his daughter Jurnee Hoffmeyer, names as defendants Mount Pleasant public schools, a librarian and a teacher’s assistant.
Among eight counts, the suit alleges the school violated the girl’s civil rights and racially and ethnically discriminated against her, reported MLive, a Michigan news outlet.
Hoffmeyer, who is Black, said his daughter’s hair was cut by a fellow student on a school bus in March. Hoffmeyer took his daughter to a hairdresser to correct the uneven chop. Days later, he said, nearly all his daughter’s hair had been cut, this time by school staff, who were white.
“I asked what happened and said, ‘I thought I told you no child should ever cut your hair,’” Hoffmeyer told the Associated Press. “She said, ‘But dad, it was the teacher.’ The teacher cut her hair to even it out.”
The librarian, possibly with the help of a teaching assistant, cut Jurnee’s hair, leaving only a few inches.
Hoffmeyer’s lawsuit alleges that the school district “failed to properly train, monitor, direct, discipline and supervise their employees, and knew or should have known that the employees would engage in the complained of behavior given the improper training, customs, procedures, and policies, and the lack of discipline that existed for employees”.
In July, the Mount Pleasant public schools board of education said the teacher who cut the hair was still employed but had been reprimanded.
An independent investigation, it said, found “no evidence the incident was motivated by racial bias”. But while the teacher had “good intentions”, the board said, cutting a student’s hair without parental permission or the school’s knowledge was a violation of policy.
The teacher was put on a “last chance” agreement and would probably be terminated if they violated another school policy, school officials said.
Other employees who knew about the incident but did not report it have apologized.
Hoffmeyer’s attorney called the incident and the school’s response “unacceptable”.
“This matter is a serious one and should have been taken seriously by the school district,” Shawndrica N Simmons told the Washington Post. “They are paid to teach, not to be barbers for the day to shape a child’s hair in a way they deem acceptable.”