Principal connects with students through haircuts
During school hours Dr. Terrance Newton is a principal at Warner Elementary School. After hours, he gets to be a barber and mentor to his students.
Humankind, USA TODAY
A Michigan father transferred his biracial 7-year-old daughter to another school after he said her hair was cut on two different occasions — first by a classmate, then a school employee.
Jimmy Hoffmeyer said his daughter, Jurnee, arrived home on March 24 from Ganiard Elementary with 2 to 3 inches of the right side of her hair cut off by one of her classmates.
Hoffmeyer took Jurnee the same day to a local hair salon which styled her hair in an asymmetrical cut and offered free haircuts until the hair grew back.
Two days later Jurnee arrived home with her hair cut again. This time a library employee had cut the other side, according to Hoffmeyer.
Hoffmeyer said he called the school multiple times with no answer before calling the police.
The Mount Pleasant Police Department told USA TODAY they spoke with Hoffmeyer, but he did not file a police report.
After the haircuts, Hoffmeyer said an assistant at the school apologized for the incident and advised him the principal was out of the office and could not speak to him until after spring break.
On April 5, he said he received a call from the principal and was told the librarian would receive marks on her report but did not have the authority to do anything further.
Hoffmeyer said he received a call 45 minutes later from the district’s superintendent, Jennifer Verleger, who offered to send Jurnee an apology card in the mail.
“An apology card to a 7-year-old who is humiliated and has to be around her classmates like this?” Hoffmeyer asked.
The Mount Pleasant School District acknowledged a student asked for her hair to be cut both times, first by a classmate and later by a library employee, according to a letter sent to parents on Tuesday which Hoffmeyer shared with USA TODAY.
The letter, which was signed by Verleger, also stated that the student’s teacher was aware the library employee was going to cut her hair, and both employees have since apologized for their actions.
The school district will conduct a full review, including conducting interviews and reviewing video evidence, the superintendent said in the same letter.
USA TODAY has reached out to the Mount Pleasant Public School District for further comment.
Hoffmeyer, who is Black and white, said the classmate who cut his daughter’s hair and the librarian were both white, but he is trying hard not to make this situation about race. Jurnee’s mother is white.
“It’s hard to come to any decision when you don’t have answers to why it was done,” Hoffmeyer said.
Hoffmeyer said he has decided to send Jurnee back to Vowles Elementary School, the school she attended before redistricting last year.
He is working with the National Parent’s Union, a nationwide network of parent organizations, and using the hashtag #justiceforJurnee to demand answers from the school. He said he hasn’t filed any legal action but has spoken with a lawyer.
“We do not find placing blame on Jurnee Hoffmeyer is the best way to offer remorse and accountability,” read a response from the National Parent’s Union. “If this nation is serious about combating and eradicating systemic racism, the way we protect our children from it will be the greatest determining factor.”
Hoffmeyer said Jurnee is doing okay but doesn’t want to go to school. She also has been set up with counseling.
“I still want to know what justifies a teacher cutting a child’s hair without their parents’ permission? Any of this could have been resolved with a phone call,” Hoffmeyer said. “She doesn’t understand what’s wrong with her hair.”
Follow reporter Asha Gilbert @Coastalasha. Email: email@example.com.
Contributing: The Associated Press.