Pender County High School in Burgaw, North Carolina, is walking back its decision to not allow a 14-year-old student to join their JROTC program after The North Carolina’s Beat story earlier Tuesday, September 13.
Renya Armstrong, the mother of the 14-year-old had told The North Carolina Beat that her son was told that he could not join the school’s JROTC program because of his hair, dreads.
Armstrong said that Pender County High School principal, Caroline Godwin, called her the next day, September 14, and told her that she hadn’t had the time to go through the new policy and that after reading it, her son could join the program if he still wanted to.
Armstrong said she feels like if she wouldn’t have spoken up, the school would have just swept this issue under the rug.
If I didn’t speak up on it, they would have brushed it under the rug and he would have never been able to be considered, Armstrong said.
According to Armstrong, the principal told her that the school started reading the new policy but claimed they were never trained on the new policy’s requirements and hadn’t received the proper training on it.
According to the U.S. Army Junior ROTC USACC REG 145-2 at USArmyJROTC.COM, students participating in the program are permitted to have braids, dreads, or cornrows “as long as they are neat and conservative.”
On September 8, Pender County High School told Armstrong’s son that he couldn’t join the program and that he would need to cut his dreads or take them out if he wanted to.
Armstrong said she was teaching her son to stand and not allow people to judge him based on his looks.
I AM TRYING TO TEACH HIM NOT TO LET SOMEONE DEFINE HIM BASED ON HIS LOOKS, ARMSTRONG SAID.
According to Armstrong, the principal told her that her son could re-sign up for JROTC if he wanted to.
I personally think if the school wasn’t called out on the situation, it would have never been changed, Armstrong said. The sergeant has 30 years of experience and now we going to blame it on improper training for the unfairness my child had to endure?
Armstrong said the school gave her a “so-called apology,” and she accepted it but is also happy she could teach her child to fight against the unfairness he may endure.
I accept the so called apology and happy I was able to teach my child to fight for the unfairness that he may endure, said Armstrong.
When The North Carolina Beat spoke to Armstrong last week, she told us that she believed Pender County High School was working backward and discriminating against Black kids based on their looks.
After the school walked back their decision, she wants the school to know that this whole ordeal may not be about race, but the way they word things makes it racist to a particular culture.
Please understand it may not be about race but the way you word things make it racist to a certain culture, Armstrong said. Because you single our a certain culture by saying no cornrows, no dreadlocks, no braids, instead of doing research to see if these are now allowed.
Armstrong said her son said he would rejoin the program next semester because this was something he wanted to do.
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