For nearly two decades, WGBH's Dan Kennedy has compiled the Muzzle Awards to bring attention to the top ten outrages against free speech from the past twelve months.
Joining the ranks this year is Mystic Valley Regional Charter School for their discriminatory hair policy. The policy was brought to the public's attention by Mya and Deanna Cook, two 15-year-old Black students who were repeatedly punished for wearing their hair in braids with extensions, a hairstyle that is common for Black women. Kennedy writes:
"A school’s dress code includes a provision that is written in seemingly neutral language, but in practice affects black students while having little impact on white students. That’s discrimination, and it’s not a difficult concept to understand.
Free expression covers a wide variety of activities, including hair and dress. It would be bad enough if Mystic Valley’s policy were not racially discriminatory. But it is, and that makes it indefensible on any grounds."
The ACLU of Massachusetts, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice have been working with the Cook family to challenge the policy and successfully suspended its enforcement through the end of the 2016-2017 school year. We remain committed to repealing the policy permanently.