Earlier this year, Jurnee Hoffmeyer came home after school with much of her hair cut off from one side of her head. She told her dad, Jimmy Hoffmeyer, that a classmate of hers had taken scissors and cut her hair off. The seven-year-old was taken to the salon and given an asymmetrical hairstyle to make the unevenness less obvious. But two days later, Jurnee came home, this time, with the other side of her hair cut off as well. "I asked what happened and said 'I thought I told you no child should ever cut your hair,'" he said, as per Detroit Free Press. "She said 'but dad, it was the teacher.' The teacher cut her hair to even it out."
Hoffmeyer is now suing the school district, a librarian, and a teacher’s assistant for a million dollars for cutting his daughter's hair without permission from her parents. The lawsuit was filed in federal court against Mount Pleasant Public Schools, Michigan, alleging that the biracial girl’s constitutional rights were violated, in addition to racial discrimination, ethnic intimidation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and assault and battery, reported Fox 13 News. Hoffmeyer is biracial as well and Jurnee's mother is White. Although they had decided to change Jurnee's school, they decided against it and she is going back to her old school.
The lawsuit stated how the district had "failed to properly train, monitor, direct, discipline, and supervise their employees, and knew or should have known that the employees would engage in the complained-of behavior given the improper training, customs, procedures, and policies, and the lack of discipline that existed for employees." The school, however, insists that there was no racial discrimination involved. In a statement, the school said: At Mt. Pleasant Public Schools, we strive each day to ensure our students can learn and achieve in an inclusive, safe environment free from harassment, discrimination, bigotry, or intolerance. As your Board of Education, we are committed to ensuring our schools are safe and welcoming for all our students." It added, "As your Board, we have made every effort to address this matter with the seriousness and care it deserves and with the transparency our community expects."
Christina Laster, with the National Parents Union and a representative for the family, told USA TODAY, "It was a botched and biased third party investigation without the perspective of the victim and the person who was harmed." They also added that they were disappointed with the response, and investigators never spoke with the father, Jimmy Hoffmeyer, or his daughter, Jurnee. In fact, Hoffmeyer had filed a complaint with the Mount Pleasant police and received no response. He later received a call from District Superintendent Jennifer Verleger, a week later offering to send "I'm sorry" cards.
"An apology card to a 7-year-old who is humiliated and has to be around her classmates like this?" Hoffmeyer asked. "It's hard to come to any decision when you don't have answers to why it was done," he said and noted that he did not want to make it about race but said the employee who cut Jurnee's hair and the classmate were both white. "It’s clear from the third-party investigation and the district’s own internal investigation that MPPS employees had good intentions when performing the haircut," the school noted. "Regardless, their decisions and actions are unacceptable and show a major lack of judgment. The employees involved have acknowledged their wrong actions and apologized."
The school district said the employee who cut Jurnee's hair will be placed on a "last chance" agreement and any further violation would likely result in termination. Additionally, two other school employees were also reprimanded. A GoFundMe has been set up to help the Hoffmeyer family.