The following comes from a June 30 Contra Costa Times article by Sharon Naguchi:


BELMONT — Five-year-old Jalyn Broussard’s “modern fade,” a popular hairstyle among African-American men, apparently set off an alarm with administrators at the boy’s Catholic school. The school called called his mother, Mariana Broussard, half an hour into the school day to pick him up and take him home because of the haircut, according to a complaint the family filed last week with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Broussard said Principal Teri Grosey told her the haircut — which the family noticed on white and Asian students — would “unduly influence the student body” and was a violation of Immaculate Heart of Mary School’s policy.

After weeks of unproductive talks with Immaculate Heart, the family last week filed the complaint, alleging that the school discriminated against Jalyn, who is African-American, based on his race.

Jalyn himself felt embarrassed and unfairly singled out, his mother said. “He knew exactly what it was about — because of how his hair as an African-American looked,” Broussard said. “It was difficult.”

The school’s hairstyle policy doesn’t account for cultural differences, said Jennifer Bezoza, an attorney for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, which is representing Jalyn. Students with different hair textures, she alleged, are being treated differently.

The school refused to budge, said Broussard, a pharmaceutical sales representative. “It was surprising to me they really dug their heels in.”

Early this year, Mariana and Errol Broussard pulled both of their sons out of the Catholic school and sent them to their neighborhood public school, Fox Elementary in Belmont — where, their mother said, they’ve done fine. “This school is a little more culturally aware,” Broussard said.

The complaint seeks reimbursement for tuition for both children — about $16,000 total — cultural sensitivity training for the school staff and administration, and improvements in the school’s anti-discrimination policy, complaint process and discipline policy.