Jimmy Hoffmeyer, a Michigan father, was outraged when his 7-year-old biracial daughter came home crying saying that her teacher had given her a haircut.
The father of the 7-year-old Michigan girl has since moved her out of Ganiard Elementary School into a new school, but after the school’s superintendent handled his complaint, he’s thought about removing her from Mount Pleasant Public Schools entirely.
Arriving home on March 24 with her hair cut off on one side of her head, Jurnee Hoffmeyer told her father that one of her classmates had stolen a pair of scissors from the teacher’s desk and cut her hair on the school bus.
After getting her hair evened out a salon, two days later she came home crying again, saying that this time it was the teacher who had given her the haircut.
The school called after the bus incident, and said that the other 7-year-old girl who initially cut her hair was going to have the matter “dealt with accordingly” by speaking with her parents.
Jimmy Hoffmeyer remembered his daughter coming home and crying, “afraid of getting in trouble for getting her hair cut.”
“I asked what happened and said “‘I thought I told you no child should ever cut your hair,'” he explained. “She said ‘but dad, it was the teacher.’ The teacher cut her hair to even it out.”
The school’s president said that all that would happen was a note in the teacher’s work file, and kept asking “what she could do to make it go away.”
“She said she didn’t have the authority to do anything,” he said. The school’s superintendent only offered to send the family an “I’m sorry” card.
“I got mad and hung up,” said Jimmy Hoffmeyer, who is biracial just like his daughter. Both the teacher and the the other 7-year-old student were white.
“I’m not one to try to make things about race, I’ve pretty much grown up with only white people, myself” he said. But after the Mount Pleasant police force ignored a complaint to investigate the school due to racial discrimination, he had The Michigan Department of Civil Rights look into the case.
“We are deeply concerned about the reported incident in a Mount Pleasant school involving a 7-year-old child whose hair was cut without her parent’s permission,” said Department of Civil Rights Director James E. White. “We are in contact with the school administration and the child’s family to ascertain the facts and circumstances that led to this unfortunate event and to decide on next steps.”
After gaining national attention, Mount Pleasant Public School Superintendent Jennifer Verleger issued a statement alleging that Jurnee Hoffmeyer told the teacher, who is a professional hairstylist outside of school, that she was worried about her new haircut. However, she regretted that school staff did not consult her parents and that they had issued an apology after the incident.
The Crown Act, a bill siting on the Michigan state legislature house floor, was designed to prevent discrimination based on hairstyle or texture, but the law remains under consideration and has yet to be signed.
“It is not uncommon for Black and biracial women and girls to be subjected to discrimination and disparate treatment based on their hair,” said Civil Rights director James E. White.
Jimmy Hoffmeyer is also working with the National Parents Union, a network of parent organizations and activists nationwide.
According to ABC News, the family has since filed a $1 million lawsuit against the school, alleging that while all parties involved had good intentions, the school’s decisions to give Jurnee Heffmeyer a haircut without her parents’ knowledge “shows a major lack of judgment.”