Urbana City School officials investigating after student was allegedly told her hair was ‘distracting’

The Urbana City School District is investigating after a principal allegedly told a student her hair was distracting.

Alicia Taylor said her 5-year-old daughter, Lybertie Crawford, came home off the school bus in tears on Thursday afternoon.

Taylor said her daughter told her the principal at Urbana Elementary School pulled her to the side and told her “that from here on out she is no longer allowed to wear her hair like this because it’s a distraction."

“She said she either has to keep it up in a ponytail or braided up,” Taylor said.

After hearing her daughter’s story, Taylor said she called the school’s principal and left a message on both Thursday and Friday but she didn’t hear back from anyone until Urbana Superintendent Charles Thiel called her on Saturday.

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“He said he talked to the principal who said she never talked to Lybertie,” Taylor said. “What five-year-old would have time to make up a lie like that? My daughter hates to have her hair up so for her to tell me that I knew she wouldn’t unless it really happened.”

Thiel told the Springfield News-Sun he spoke with Taylor, the principal and the assistant principal about the allegations.

“I did speak with the principal and assistant principal who both said they did not speak with the student about changing her hair,” Thiel said.

Thiel added that the Urbana student handbook does not contain specific requirements about student’s hair, however, it does reference dress code.

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“For all Urbana elementary school students, extremes of dress or grooming, though perhaps not specifically mentioned here, may be judged disruptive to the classroom atmosphere or contrary to the general welfare. Clothing is to be neat, clean, and modest,” the handbook states.

Thiel said the incident is still being investigated. According to a statement from the district’s Board of Education, Urbana “takes all accusations of harassment and discrimination seriously and has policies and procedures in place to investigate and address such issues.”

Taylor said the incident has “really hurt her daughter’s feelings,” and that she has had issues with both her children being bullied within the district.

“It really made me upset. I’m upset for both of my kids. My kids should be able to go to learn, and they both go in fear. My son bullied for his skin and daughter for her hair,” she said. “Other kids are learning and not getting picked on, so why are my two biracial children getting picked on and singled out like this?”

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