By State Rep. Annette Polly Williams
Mr. William G. Andrekopoulos, Superintendent
Milwaukee Public Schools
5225 W. Vliet Street
PO Box 2181
Milwaukee, WI 53201
Dear Superintendent Andrekopoulos:
It was deeply disheartening to learn of the incident in which a Milwaukee Public School (MPS) teacher at Congress Elementary became so enraged with the behavior of one her students that she punished the young 7-year-old first-grader by cutting off a section of her braided hair. This is an extremely humiliating and demoralizing response to what was probably a small annoyance on the part of this young girl. I believe most would agree, this teacher’s conduct is completely unacceptable, she needs to be reprimanded to the fullest extent and measures should to be taken so that incidents like this will not occur again.
What you may not be aware of is that, in the Black community, a women’s hair is extremely important and in many ways connected to our culture. Additionally, many from a religious or faith background take the bible scripture literally considering a women’s hair to be her glory or of great worth and have very strict practices in how they manage or even if they will cut their hair. This teacher was grossly insensitive to the psychological, perhaps religious, and cultural impact that her actions may have caused in our community. Also, for this teacher to lure this young child to the front of the classroom with candy, as if she were going to receive some reward, and then deceive her by cutting her hair in full view of her classmates is inexcusable. Furthermore, to take her hair and throw it in the garbage, in my opinion as well as some others, is just as callous as cutting off a part of the girl’s finger and throwing it away. These actions are an assault on this child, the Black culture and on some people’s faith.
It is also disconcerting to see the racial overtones with this teacher’s conduct as well as the apparent lack of empathy on the administration’s part in failing to address this incident quickly. As someone stated in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, “What do you think would have happened if a Black teacher called up a little blond white girl to the front of the class and cut off her hair?” I believe there would have been an outcry from many in the city and the Black teacher would have been immediately suspended. Although I do understand that the teacher who caused the incident is going through a MPS disciplinary process and that she received a $175 ticket for disorderly conduct, it is alarming to learn that the teacher remains in the classroom, and the student, who is the victim, was moved to another class as if the student was at fault.
We as a community can no longer accept or overlook situations like these that hurt our children and pierce the fabric of our culture. It is important that this incident become not only an example of what a teacher and school district will not allow, but what our community will no longer tolerate. I look forward to the resolution of this matter.
Annette Polly Williams
Wisconsin State Representative
10th Assembly District