MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. (WJRT/Gray News) - Mount Pleasant Public Schools issued a statement Wednesday explaining why a staff member cut a 7-year-old student’s curly hair and expressing regret for the incident.
The school district addressed the controversy over Jurnee Hoffmeyer’s haircuts after the story gained national attention this week. Hundreds of people from around the country took part in a virtual school board meeting on Monday, expressing concerns about the incident.
Superintendent Jennifer Verleger says a library employee at Ganiard Elementary School gave Jurnee a haircut last month with the full knowledge of the girl’s teacher as a goodwill gesture. Both employees are under review for possible disciplinary action as a result of the haircut.
Verleger’s statement says Jurnee asked a fellow student to cut her hair on March 23. The classmate removed a pair of scissors from a classroom without permission and cut Jurnee’s hair while they rode home on a municipal bus together.
Their principal met with Jurnee and her friend the following day to discuss the haircut.
The statement says Jurnee did not like how her haircut looked, so she asked a library employee to fix it while her class was visiting the library.
Rather than declining this request or consulting with Jurnee’s parents or school administrators, administrators say the employee – who works as a cosmetologist – agreed to even out Jurnee’s hair to make her feel better. She brought in special shears and barrettes for the haircut on March 26.
Verleger says the actions are unacceptable and show a lack of judgment on the part of the library employee and Jurnee’s teacher, regardless of their good intentions. Both employees have admitted their actions and apologized
Verleger says she personally apologized to Jurnee’s family on behalf of Mount Pleasant Public Schools. Administrators are investigating whether either employee broke school district policies and whether they should face any discipline.
Christina Laster, the director of policy and legislation for the National Parents Union, has been working with the Hoffmeyer family to get answers from the school district. She hopes the story sparks change locally and around the country.
“I believe that the adults in this educational space were more concerned and maybe outspoken about Jurnee’s hairstyle and texture than Jurnee,” Laster said. “And I believe that perhaps what took place -- and based on my communications with the family -- what really took place is that children started to adopt that same judgmental mentality about Jurnee’s hair, which then turned into this incident that really got out of control quick.”
The National Parents Union advocates improving the quality of life for children across the country. One avenue of change is the Crown Act, which the Michigan Legislature is considering, to prohibit discrimination based on hair texture or style.
“If we could just really move forward in passing this on a federal level, I think everybody in this country is ready for a change like that,” Laster said.