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Durham Catholic students call for changes to uniform, including allowance of Black hair accessories

Click to play video 'Students call for allowance of Black hair accessories' Students call for allowance of Black hair accessories
WATCH: Students from Durham's Catholic school board are calling for changes to the uniform policy. Brittany Rosen reports.

Students from Durham’s Catholic school board are pushing for changes to uniform policy.

More specifically, the group wants hair accessories that are currently banned, and more commonly used by Black students, to be permitted by the board.

The DCDSB student senate says students should be allowed to wear various items including bonnets, silk head scarves and durags.

“It is such a big part of their identity,” said DCDSB student trustee Annika Dela Torre.

“That’s something that we really wanted to allow for students to really bring forward to the board so they can really feel like they’re comfortable and their cultures are accepted within the school community.”

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The group has since made a recommendation to the board to implement a new policy that would allow for these accessories.

The DCDSB says it’s been working with students, but there are some concerns.

“Some of the things in our consultations so far, most particularly with our parents and guardians, are around issues of the uniform,” said Susie Lee-Fernandes, superintendent of education.

“Parents choose to send their students to a Catholic school sometimes because of that uniform. They like that solidarity the uniform can present and promote.”

However, anti-racism experts argue for Black students, cultural accessories should be normalized in schools, just as items like hair elastics would be.

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“Silk scarves are just a way of having a protective hairstyle,” said anti-racism educator Janelle Brady.

“Especially during the middle of a pandemic, Black students may or may not have the time or the access to do particular styles that are appeasing to what’s called ‘the white gaze.”

Brady commends the students for their efforts to change current policies.

“They’re doing what not everyone does,” she said.

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“There’s something wrong with the system. They’ve identified that there’s something wrong, and they’re saying, ‘Hey, this is not right for us or future incoming students.'”

Just this past May, Durham’s public school board made revisions to its dress code that would allow students to wear cultural accessories.

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Despite concerns from the DCDSB, staff say they are open and receptive to the recommendation.

A decision on whether or not the policy will be implemented is expected to come early next year.