Nothing good has ever come out of a note sent home by a teacher. At best, a parent may learn that their child is having a hard time adjusting or understanding something that their peers are getting at a swifter speed. At worst, as in the case of a note sent home with Amia Norris, a student at the Raggedy Anne Learning Center in Chicago, it could be a racially charged screed.
According to Cosmopolitan, Amia was the only black student in her class at the learning center when her teacher, Carol, sent home a note asking Amia’s mother, Tionna Norris, to use less coconut oil in the child’s hair because other students were allegedly making fun of her.
The note, which was posted to Facebook by Norris, implies that the coconut oil that Norris uses on Amia’s hair “stinks” and that other children had been bullying her because of the smell. “If you have to do this daily,” the note closed, “please do so lightly so the kid’s [sic] don’t tease her.”
Of course, Norris was upset. First of all, because coconut oil doesn’t have a smell that could be classified as “stinky,” and second of all because it’s the teacher’s responsibility to handle her class. If kids are being teased, then it should be up to the instructor to sit these same kids down and discuss why it’s important not to judge or bully others. The answer isn’t to say “well, kids do tease, so change your behavior,” it’s to give them a lesson in kindness and understanding.
Norris sent back the following note, also posted to Facebook, in response:
Aside from sharing her disappointment that her daughter’s uniqueness was not appreciated at the school and trying to explain exactly how she does Amia’s hair, Norris asked the teacher if the children who had been teasing Amia had also been sent home with letters informing their parents that they needed to discuss both their kids’ bullying behavior and educate their children on what diversity means. Fair question.
It was at this point that the teacher could have apologized and considered her own actions, but when Norris went to school officials to discuss the letter, Cosmopolitan reports, she was told that, actually, no bullying had ever occurred.
Norris believes the note resulted from a lack of racial sensitivity in the school and also thinks Amia’s teacher was being discriminatory by sending home a note that reported a false incident. And the school hasn’t helped matters — despite the school administrator’s apology, she took no action against Carol. “I was hurt for my child,” Norris told CBS Chicago. “Because I am a young parent in the school or the parent of darker skin tone, I get the letter that says my daughter stinks.”
While the school has not responded to calls by reporters (ours included), it’s clear that the administration needs to engage in some sensitivity and diversity training with the staff. Whether that happens or not, however, Amia won’t be there to see it. Norris has pulled her child from the school because she doesn’t feel that the instructor could treat her daughter in a fair and non-discriminatory manner.
“If you cannot understand why a mother would be upset about receiving a letter like that,” Norris told CBS, “then you don’t deserve to teach my child.”