White Utah teen with dreadlocks claims discrimination over hairstyle

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah - A mother in Pleasant Grove is speaking out after her daughter was reprimanded for wearing dreadlocks to the charter school she attends.

The Lincoln Academy has strict policies and guidelines for their dress code. But her mother says she wears them for religious reasons.

"I guess it's just like representing like me turning over a new leaf and like trying to find myself," said eighth-grader Caycee Cunningham about her dreadlocks.

After studying abroad in Guatemala, Cunningham at Lincoln Academy grew dreadlocks as part what she calls a spiritual journey in her Hindu beliefs.

"I think they could be a little more accepting of it, and I think they should, because we do live in America and it does kind of boggles my mind a little bit," the teen said.

Caycee's mother Tonya Judd said she received a phone call from the school principal at Lincoln Academy saying Caycee's dreadlocks were against the school dress code and she was asked to remove them.

Judd believes if students of other ethnicities are allowed to wear them, her daughter should be able to wear them as well.

"My daughter is white and there happens to be other kids in the school who happen to be other race and ethnicity and they have hair that can't be combed, and there's never been an issue regarding that before," Judd said.

While Lincoln Academy's dress code does not specifically ban dreadlocks, there are policies against unnatural hair colors and distracting haircuts that Principal Jake Hunt says they hold every student at the school to.

"Our dress code says that our students' hair must have a neat, combed appearance, be appropriate for school, and not be distracting in the classroom, which is pretty similar to what many schools in our area have," he said.

While Judd says she respects the charter school's dress code, she doesn't believe her daughter's hair is a distraction and says she shouldn't be discriminated against.

"Not only have they been racially profiling my daughter because she happens to be a while girl with dreadlocks, but it's also taking away the rights of my daughter's religious beliefs and her spiritual journey," Judd said.

While Hunt said Caycee is not facing repercussions for not changing her hair, he says he wants to have a conversation with her mother to see if they can reach a compromise.

"We would be happy to come to a common solution with parents if they have concerns," he said. "It's just a matter of having that conversation with us and trying to go through that process."

Caycee and her mom say they refuse to remove the dreadlocks and will continue to stand their ground that Caycee's hair is a hairstyle and is not a distraction to other students at the school.

Caycee says she is prepared to transfer schools if she needs to.

65 comments

    • Jessica H

      That’s actually a misconception. Dreadlocks must be washed fairly regularly, otherwise the hair won’t “lock” up into dreads. And her dreads actually looked really clean.

    • Natty Dread

      How do you know that? Do you have (dreads) locs? My hair is dreaded (locked). Also, I wash my hair every 4 weeks. Being African-American, we don’t wash the hair EVERYDAY. We don’t want to wash the natural oils out of our hair.

  • Diana Haslam

    Some people will do anything for a little attention. If they can’t get good attention, they have to settle for negative attention!!

  • Blade

    Hindu? Dreadlocks? Sorry, but I lived and worked in SE Asia and there is no religious association between Hinduism and dreadlocks. Now if she claimed to be Rastafarian that’s another story.

  • Jorgenson

    I think that we all should be focusing on the fact that it is a guaranteed First Amendment right to the freedom of expression which is something that Caycee is doing. No matter what her religion is.. No matter what her religion is. If we accept this one day we will all be told how to dress and how to comb our hair and how to act . Is this what we all are looking forward to?

  • jasmyne18

    She has no religious or racial ties to this style. Hindus do not wear dreadlocks. This hairstyle partially came from Africa and if done correctly looks beautiful. I’m sorry but hers looks like a rats nest. I think the school wouldn’t have and issue if they went somewhere and have her hair professionally dreaded.

  • Natalie

    Schools here need to move into the 20th century! It is ONLY a distraction cause the schools make a big deal. I guarantee the other kids do not care! Growing up in a school that let us dye and cut our hair,there is no distraction, if everyone does it.the schools here need to start focusing on actually teaching! And let the kids express themselves in ways that don’t hurt themselves or others.!!!!! I see 50 yr old women walking around with purple hair and “chopped boy” hair cuts, 50 yrs ago that would have been taboo!

    • Cornelius

      This is exactly what I was thinking. The only distraction is that the teachers and administrators can’t get over someone doing something non-traditional with their hair. The other kids will notice it, say something or not, and move right on with whatever they were doing. They’re not sitting in math class thinking, “I just can’t figure the quadratic equation out! If only the girl in front of me didn’t have dreadlocks I would be able to get it!” If the worst thing she does while trying to “find herself” is style her hair in dreads, I think we can call that a pretty good outcome.

  • Spencer Reid

    Dreadlocks or not, It doesn’t matter if she is Claiming to be practicing Hinduism, IT IS HAIR People. I had a daughter that went to a Charter school for a few years, and it was a Constant battle with the school as to them being selective in who is talked to about it. We would see girls that were Natural Brunettes with Blondish Red highlights dyed in to their hair, my daughter went in to school with Blond on top and Black underneath, and my daughter got singled out to have to fix her hair. The schools policy said Non Natural hair colors could not be worn. The hair color my daughter had were actual Natural color Hair Dyes. It wasn’t like she went with a Blue, or a Green. The Charter schools need to take a look at the policies. If she wants to wear the Dreads as part of her Spiritual journey what does it matter. I see people nit picking about her wearing them as part of her Hindu beliefs.

  • Ashley Astel

    This is ridiculous. Her hair IS distracting. As an adult it is distracting to me, to children it would be even worse. Private schools have more strict dress codes for a reason and people shouldn’t be able to pick and choose what to follow because they are “on a spiritual journey”. Tolerance to other religions is great but rules are rules.

    • Spencer Reid

      It is a CHARTER SCHOOL, Not a PRIVATE SCHOOL. Charter schools are all funded from the LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT and don’t charge Tuition as a PRIVATE SCHOOL Wood, yes there is a Dress code. But Dress code should be about CLOTHES I.E Dressing. Hair is not something that can be changed at will very well.

    • Cornelius

      Just because you have ADD, doesn’t mean everyone else is so distracted by the way people look that they can’t focus on anything else.

  • Ash

    Locks are also considered sacred to Hindus… those claiming there is no affiliation are not well versed in Hinduism, it seems.

  • anotherbob

    “taking away the rights of my daughter’s religious beliefs and her spiritual journey” Oh give me a break. Both parties are idiots, the ugly girl with ugly hair and a schools dress code which is too strict.

    • Moeller

      Are you seriously calling this little girl ugly? I would hope you would think twice before putting that on social media and you should be ashamed of your words. Little girls do not need that type of bashing from anyone regardless of what you may think. She is expressing her self and from experience dreads can be kept just as clean as any other style of hair.

    • bob

      Fox 13 is a LOCAL affiliate. Fox News has been all over the Afghan abuse story. I’m in Utah and I read about it days ago.

    • Cornelius

      Why would you blame all of Utah for what one news station does or doesn’t report? The other story probably has fewer comments because everyone agrees the actions and policies are despicable. There’s no room for debate like there is on this article.

  • Craig Smith

    There was a girl in my neighborhood where I grew up who was white and had a natural afro. There was nothing she could do about it. It wouldn’t straighten, it was tight, tight small curls. She tried everything to alter the style but it refused. It looked like an extremely tight perm. This girl however, looks like she has chosen to have this hairstyle. If the parents of students attending The Lincoln Academy were forced to sign an agreement concerning adherence to dress codes and policies at the beginning of the school year, it would be much easier to force compliance or removal from school. This would ensure that everyone was voluntarily agreeing to the policies or agreeing to receiving their education elsewhere.

  • Mimi

    It doesn’t look like it would be a distraction to me. It’s really not even that extreme of a hair style. And it’s not dyed an unnatural color. I would let it slide. There are other extreme hair styles out there that are much more distracting.

  • Lisa

    This is such a dumb story. My kids go to a Charter and they have a dress code, we don’t try buck the system. We knew of the dress code when we signed.No matter how silly i think it is. We sent them knowing there is a dress code. To many parents these days can’t encourage their kids to follow rules. Send her to PGJHS and see if they don’t mind dreadlocks purple hair etc.

    • Jorgenson

      I call 4 Jr highs in the area and two schools answered the phone. They had no problem with dreadlocks one said that the school district had not made any decisions on that as now.Two school said that dreadlocks were allowed.

  • BilboBaggins928

    “I guess it’s just like representing like me turning over a new leaf and like trying to find myself,”
    LOL:)

  • Katia

    This girl is easily one of the most ignorant people I have ever heard of. Why is she trying to use religion to justify cultural appropriation? There is nothing in Hinduism about dreadlocks, because dreadlocks are for black people. Dreadlocks were designed in order to keep afro-textured hair in place. In fact, when white people get dreadlocks they usually grow mold.

  • Ted Nugent

    What is a “while girl?” Is she a teenager who lives in a community with a media outlet that doesn’t proof read their copy?

  • Shawn

    HINDUISM HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH DREADLOCKS. And I doubt there’s any Hindus at all.that deep into central America. SO SHE’S LYING. She’s just an eighth grader who looks like she smokes weed a lot. Plus who told her bangs and dreadlocks looked good?‽ the school cant tell the black kids to cut it or it’s a giant lawsuit. They should let her keep the hair. Hair that ugly is punishment enough. Especially when she has to.go bald once she realizes straight hair and dreadlocks only look ok on a HANDFUL OF PEOPLE IN THE WORLD

  • anon

    HOW THE TABLES HAVE TURNED, SOCIAL “JUSTICE WARRIORS.” All the “tolerant” moonbats are making nasty comments about a 13 YEAR OLD GIRL. Very progressive. You all might want to do a little research on dreads before crying “cultural appropriation.” Which, judging from the “Rastafarian” reference in the comments above, you all think this hairstyle belongs to black culture..? (Because obviously, associating a style of hair to one specific race isn’t even slightly racist.) Ah the ignorance. Dreadlock hairstyles date back to ancient Egyptians. They also are associated with Hinduism. But to you simple minded idiots, dreads are limited to “back culture.” On a more obvious note, it’s HAIR. Im sure if this girl was black and fit all of your misconceived notions about “black hair” there would be outrage against the school. But of course, to you all, the 13 year old is in the wrong because she’s appropriating what is misunderstood to be “black culture.” Pathetic. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/matted-locks-is-their-mane-identity/article940954.ece

  • natyshab

    This is just stupid. It seems like this lady in her daughter trying to get attention the wrong way. Personally I’m offended think they are mocking African American s in the culture. IIn being a child lets not forget how school kids are (cruel) kids will be distracted in will speak on her hair . This lady needs to sit down somewhere in quite trying to hard # religion yea right

    • evilmediamogul

      I don’t know if its really a mockery, it does look dumb on her though, prolly the bangs. I totally get the vibe that the mom is trying everything she can to play the victim.

  • Charles

    I can understand the young girl’s dilemma. As an American of African decent. I’m always judged with negative assessment, because of my locks. I resorted to wearing a “dread bonnet” , to most people it looks like a knit hat, and it eliminated the distraction. Problem solved.

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