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Nebraska district settles suit over cutting of Native American students' hair

Oct. 9, 2023
The Cody-Kilgore district must pay the families of 2 students $227,500 and amend its policies to prohibit school personnel from giving haircuts.

Two families will receive $227,500 after settling a lawsuit against a Nebraska school district where a staff member cut the hair of Native American children without their parents' permission.

Nebraska Public Radio reports that the Cody-Kilgore district will pay the parents and students $227,500 and will amend its policies to prohibit school personnel from giving students haircuts without their parents' permission.

Two parents, Alice Johnson and Norma LeRoy, Lakota tribal members affiliated with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, filed the federal suit on behalf of their daughters.

In 2020, an elementary school secretary cut the hair of the two girls during a check for head lice. The lawsuit stated that Lakota Sioux believe long hair is a sacred symbol and can be cut only by select individuals. The school employee’s actions, the suit contended, violated the civil rights of the students.

In settling the case, the school district has agreed to “implement a general policy prohibiting school officials from performing haircuts upon students for any reason without the written consent of the student's parents or guardians.” 

The policy for performing lice checks also will be amended to prohibit hair cutting with permission of the family.

For five years, the Cody-Kilgore district is required to provide cultural training, including material specific to Native American people.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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