A Michigan family is suing a school district after a teacher cut a little Black girl’s hair without permission.
The father of 7-year-old Jurnee, whose hair was cut by a White librarian and teaching assistant, has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the school district, according to The Detroit Free Press. The family filed the lawsuit this week in federal court in Grand Rapids against Mount Pleasant Public Schools.
The lawsuit claims that the biracial girl’s constitutional rights were violated in addition to racial discrimination, ethnic intimidation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault and battery.
The girl’s father, Jimmy Hoffmeyer, who is Black and white, said that in March his daughter arrived home from Ganiard Elementary with some of her hair on one side of her head cut. The girl said a classmate used scissors to cut her hair on a school bus, Hoffmeyer told the Associated Press in April.
After taking Jurnee to the salon—two days after the bus incident another incident occurred—the girl came home with the hair on the other side cut.
“I asked what happened and said, ‘I thought I told you no child should ever cut your hair,'” Hoffmeyer said at the time. “She said, ‘But dad, it was the teacher.’ The teacher cut her hair to even it out.”
“Why is she touching my child period during a COVID pandemic and without permission?” Hoffmeyer said.
The lawsuit states the 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.”
The Associated Press reported that, according to the U.S. Census, 4% of Mount Pleasant’s 25,000 residents are Black.
As BLACK ENTERPRISE previously reported, in July the Mount Pleasant Public Schools Board of Education said the staffer who cut Jurnee’s hair was reprimanded and that an independent third-party investigation concluded that despite “good intentions” the teacher should not have cut the girl’s hair without her parents and the district’s approval. In doing so, the teacher violated school policy.
Two other employees were aware of the incident but failed to report it. They have since apologized.
According to the school board, an independent investigation found no racial bias and included interviews with district personnel, students and families and a review of video and photos, including posts on social media. District administrators also performed an internal review of the incident.
Hoffmeyer demanded the teacher be fired, He said the district never questioned him or Jurnee. Jurnee now attends another school.