Alcoa student claims she was suspended for wearing headscarf

Natia Kelso

ALCOA (WATE) – An Alcoa High School junior was suspended for two days after an administrator compared her head scarf to a “do rag.”

School officials told Natia Kelso it was a violation of the dress code, but she refused to take it off. Her mother says the suspension is ridiculous.

Her mother, Kari Young-Burton, took to Facebook after the incident, saying “My daughter Natia was suspended from Alcoa High School for 2 days for wearing this wrap. I ask… does the punishment fit the crime? There IS a difference in cultural beauty when wearing scarves and wraps. For Aloca High School to be the most diverse school in the county, you would think they would be more welcome to diversity.”

“I just don’t think that the crime fits the punishment, she’s not breaking school policy so why does she have to remove it,” said Kari Young-Burton on Monday.

The dress code policy states inappropriate grooming and attire include accessories like hoods, pajamas and bandanas and wave caps. Nowhere in the policy does it say no scarves.

“I really think it was blown out of proportion. She was asked if it was a do rag. Clearly it’s not a do rag,” said Young-Burton.

Her daughter is out of school for two days.

“It’s not fair to lower her self-esteem and humiliate her in front of the kids, for what,” she said.

WATE 6 On Your Side reached out to the school’s superintendent Dr. Brian Bell about the issue but he said, “We can’t comment on individual student disciplinary actions, especially with a juvenile.”

Natia’s mother would like to see the school make some changes.

“I think the teachers, principal, superintendent they need to increase their diversity training,” said Young-Burton.

Natia is returning to school Tuesday and hasn’t decided if she’ll wear the scarf or not. Young-Burton also added she feels like the scarf was made an issue because the school had special visitors that day that included state senators and the commissioner of education.

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