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Sharpie punishment triggers lawsuit: Black student 'shamed' when school officials colored hair

Posted at 9:51 AM, Aug 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-20 09:51:41-04

HOUSTON (AP) — A student's parents are suing Texas school administrators for coloring in a hair design on the black student's head.

The student, 13, went to Berry Miller Junior High in April with the letter "M'' shaved on his head. Three administrators told the student his haircut violated the school's dress code policy. They told him he could call his mother, receive a disciplinary action or color the design in with a marker.

A federal civil rights lawsuit filed Sunday says administrators laughed as they used a permanent marker to color the boy's scalp. The lawsuit notes that the boy was "immensely humiliated and shamed," adding that it took several days of scrubbing to take off the permanent marker.

The lawsuit names the Pearland Independent School District, school Principal Tony Barcelona, discipline clerk Helen Day and teacher Jeanette Peterson as defendants, the family attorney's Randall Kallinen said.

The lawsuit points out that Barcelona was an assistant principal at the time, but has since been promoted to head principal "despite significant media coverage and public outcry" over the incident, the Houston Chronicle reported.

"After several attempts by the parents and their lawyer to resolve the issues with no response, the plaintiffs initiated this instant litigation for training and compensation," the lawsuit states.

The district has not yet responded legally to the lawsuit. But at the time of the incident, the district said that an administrator "mishandled" the situation. The district said then in a statement that the practice of using a marker "is not condoned by the district and does not align with appropriate measures for dress code violations."

The student's parents are seeking compensation and want district employees to receive training.