Baytown cheerleader fighting back over right to choose hair style

Tuesday, August 30, 2016
EMBED <>More Videos

Baytown cheerleader fighting back over right to choose hair style

BAYTOWN, TX (KTRK) -- A Baytown teen's mother says her daughter is the victim of racial discrimination by her high school cheer coach.

Fifteen-year-old Kemirah Jn-Marie is a flyer on the Ross S. Sterling High School varsity cheer squad.

"The coach makes it hard to be on varsity," she said, telling Eyewitness News the coach has been on her repeatedly about her hair. "She makes me feel bad about myself," said Jn-Marie.

This year, she says, she had special braids done in the hope of meeting cheer requirements. Her mother says things really got out of hand last week when the coach told Kemirah she wouldn't be able to perform at Saturday's football game if she showed up as she did at school - with her hair in braids. "I said, 'If that's the case, put it in writing. Just put it in writing,'" said Mayra Jn-Marie. She says the school district refused.

What is in writing are these Sterling High cheer guidelines: Hair must be "pulled back in a secure pony tail" and hair "must not distract from the cheer environment." The policy also states that an administrator will determine if a hair style is disruptive.

Nowhere in the guidelines does it say anything specifically about prohibiting braids. "I feel like she singles me out," said Kemirah.

Kemirah says other girls are given more leeway in hairstyles. As the only African-American on the cheer squad, she and her mother say the coach seems to be more adamant about complaints against her.

"She's been harassed. She's been bullied by her teacher, and I'm tired of it," said Mayra Jn-Marie.

A spokesperson for Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District says this was only a simple disagreement over hairstyles.

Beth Dombrowa, Director of Communications for Goose Creek CISD, issued a statement on the matter. "This student is not the only cheerleader who has been asked to correct her hairstyle, or other parts of her uniform; further, she was in no way reprimanded, punished or kept from participating - she was simply reminded to use the agreed-upon hairstyle. In no way do we discriminate, or tolerate, discrimination of any student."

Kemirah says she did go to that game Saturday with braids in her hair, and that she still was allowed to perform.