One day, seven-year-old Jurnee Hoffmeyer returned home crying with her haircut.
Her father, Jimmy Hoffmeyer, was shocked. In two days, this was the second “haircut” his daughter received. On March 24, a schoolfellow snipped her hair with scissors on the school bus, into a “one side cute”. Her father complained to the principal and brought Jurnee to a salon for an asymmetrical cut (to hide the choppy lengths), but the daughter returned home with even shorter hair. And in this case, a teacher cut Jurnee’s hair to even it out.
After the haircut at the school bus, the school told the father that “the little girl stole the scissors off the teacher’s desk, and they were going to talk to the parents and deal with it accordingly.”
Jurnee is biracial and has amazing golden curls. The school librarian was the teacher who had cut Jurnee’s hair and is also a licensed cosmetologist, but as the principal claims, the most that could happen is a note in the librarian’s work file.
“She [the principal] said she didn’t have the authority to do anything,” Hoffmeyer said. “She kept asking me what she could do to make it go away.”
He even filed an incident report with the police, but until now, no one followed up with him. Also, he received a call from the district’s superintendent, which offered to send apology cards to the family.
“I got mad and hung up,” explained Hoffmeyer, who’s biracial, too, while Jurnee’s mother is white. Meanwhile, the classmate and teacher who cut Jurnee’s hair are both white.
“Our kind of hair, you can’t just wet down and cut it because and that’s when I feel like they should have, even if they were trying to do it in the kindest of their heart, once they have seen the outcome, they should have been like, yeah we messed up,” Hoffmeyer said. “We should probably call him and let him know what just happened.”
But, he found out about the haircut only when his daughter came home, crying and afraid. He also struggled to discover what happened precisely.
“I’m not one to try to make things about race,” he said. “I’ve pretty much grown up with only white people, myself.”
As the U.S. Census shows, about 4% of 25 000 residents of Mount Pleasant are Black. There are bills in progress to modify Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to make it illegal to discriminate based on hair texture and styles.
When the classmate cut Jurnee’s hair, he didn’t think too much of it. “I mean, I chalked it up because it was a child, and you’re not thinking of any serious consequences having to do with a kid,” Hoffmeyer said. But he lost his patience the second time. “After that teacher cut her hair, she was so embarrassed. So embarrassed. Because she had to go back to class like that.”
He contacted the school over and over again to find out exactly what happened but he didn’t get any answer to his questions at the start. Even though the school apologized, they didn’t want to show him the video of what happened during both haircuts.
“I would like them to own up to their responsibilities,” Hoffmeyer said. “Like, we’ve been asking as a public apology, for the most part, to let Jurnee know that yes they acknowledge that it was wrong and that it should have never been done and that she should never have been through something like this.”
Since then, District Superintendent Jennifer Verleger confirmed the story and further said that Jurnee’s teacher knew about the librarian’s plans to give her the haircut. The haircut was given without Jurnee’s parents allowing it, or permission from the school’s administration. As it seems, the teachers thought they were helping the student, claiming Jurnee asked for a haircut because she didn’t like her hair at the moment.
“Regardless of their good intentions, these actions were unacceptable and show a lack of judgment on the part of our two employees,” Verleger said in the statement she issued. ”Both are being reviewed for further disciplinary actions in accordance without school policies and procedures.”
Since the incident, they have apologized to the Hoffmeyer family for their behavior. Soon after, her father moved Jurnee into a different school and is thinking about enrolling her into private school. Hoffmeyer is also working with the National Parents Union, which is a national network of parents that advocate for improvement in the quality of life for children. The director of policy and legislation of the union, Christina Laster, believes the teachers involved were directly and openly criticizing the girl’s hair texture and style.
“I believe that perhaps what took place — and based on my communications with the family — what really took place is that children started to adopt that same judgmental mentality about Jurnee’s hair, which then turned into this incident that really got out of control quick.”