A Michigan father has filed a one million dollar federal lawsuit against Mount Pleasant Public Schools after a library worker cut his seven-year-old biracial daughter’s hair.
The lawsuit suggests that student Jurnee Hoffmeyer’s Fourteenth and Fourth Amendments rights were violated when a teacher cut her hair without parental consent. The lawsuit also raises counts of deliberate indifference to Hoffmeyer’s constitutional rights, racial discrimination, ethnic intimidation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and battery, and violation of Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.
The incident occurred in March after Jurnee arrived home from school and her parents observed that her hair had been cut on one side of their daughter’s head. It was learned that Jurnee’s hair had been cut by another student on the bus ride home after the student had stolen a pair of scissors from a teacher’s desk.
Jurnee’s parents took her to a salon to even out the asymmetrical haircut. Within two days of the initial incident between Jurnee and a classmate, Jurnee came home from school with yet another haircut.
“She was crying. She was afraid of getting in trouble for getting her hair cut,” Jurnee’s father, Jimmy Hoffmeyer, explained.
Jimmy Hoffmeyer, who is both black and white himself, stated that he asked his daughter what had happened. “I asked what happened and said ‘I thought I told you no child should ever cut your hair'” he recalled. “She said, ‘but dad, it was the teacher.’ The teacher cut her hair to even it out.”
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Apparently, the teacher who cut Journee’s hair was a library worker. The worker is also a cosmetologist, according to a statement released by district Superintendent Jennifer Verleger.
In talking with the principal, Jimmy Hoffmeyer was allegedly informed that the most action the school could take was to add a note of the incident in the staff member’s file. “She said she didn’t have the authority to do anything. She kept asking what she could do to make it go away,” Hoffmeyer explained.
Superintendent Verleger’s statement on the matter was released on April 20 and accounts for the school’s understanding of the incident:
On Tuesday, March 23, a Ganiard Elementary student asked her friend who is also an elementary student to cut her hair at school. The friend removed scissors from a classroom without permission and cut a portion of the student’s hair while riding home on a public transportation bus. The next school day, the principal met with both students to discuss the incident.
The student grew unhappy and dissatisfied with the way her hair looked after the other student cut it and asked a school library employee to help fix her hair during a classroom visit to the library.
Rather than declining this request or consulting with the student’s parents or school administrators, the library employee – who is also a cosmetologist – agreed to even out the student’s hair to make her feel better. She brought in professional shears and special barrettes. Our preliminary review shows the student’s teacher was also aware the library employee was planning to cut the student’s hair.
The statement goes on to read, “regardless of their good intentions, these actions are unacceptable and show a lack of judgement on the part of our two employees. Both employees have admitted their actions and apologized.”
The case is Jimmy Hoffmeyer V. Mount Pleasant Public Schools No. E 1:21-CV-00795-RJJ-SJB, in United States District Court of Western District of Michigan.