ROOPERVILLE, Ga – An 8-year-old girl from Georgia has been left with severe and possibly permanent damage to her scalp after school bullies tugged at her weave over a prolonged period of time.
Aolani Dunbar, who is biracial, has natural afro-textured hair but craved long, flowing straight hair. Her maternal grandmother Dorris Bearden, who’s white, said she wanted to brush her hair like other girls at her school.
“Her hair is short and frizzy but it’s always been her dream to her to have long hair like mine,” Bearden told theGrio. “She’s a girly girl and likes to play with and brush the hair of her dolls.”
Aolani is a third-grader at Roopville Elementary School in Carroll County, a predominately white school in rural Georgia.
To make her happy Aolani’s mother and grandmother allowed her to wear a sewn-in weave attached to her natural hair. “I spoke to several cosmetologists who said it wouldn’t be a problem as long as we helped her take care of the hair,” said Bearden.
But from the very first day Aolani’s classmates, egged on by two ringleaders, started to tease her and took turns pulling her hair extensions. Bearden called the school principal the next day and each time her granddaughter complained, she was back on the phone.
“They kept pulling it and pulling it, especially on the playground,” Aolani said in a televised interview with WSB-TV. “Everybody got a chance, and I was in the gazebo sitting there crying because I have no friends to play with that will protect me.”
“On the third day Aolani said one of her classmates pulled her hair so hard she’d heard one of the stitches snap and her head hurt really bad,” said Bearden. She looked at her granddaughter’s scalp and noticed there was a sore on her head which was bleeding.
Bearden called officials again urging for action to be taken but frustrated by what she believed was a slow and inadequate response contacted the school’s superintendent.
According to Aolani and her family, even after reporting the incident to school officials, her classmates continued to tease and pull at her weave for another week. One of the two ringleaders involved was punished with a one-day in-school suspension and the other has not been disciplined, said Bearden.
“On Saturday I noticed her hair had a funny smell so we lifted the hair and noticed some of the stiches had broke,” said Bearden. “When I unbraided her hair it fell out in my hands.”
Her hair had been pulled so hard there was a massive wound on her crown that had no growth.
According to Bearden, her granddaughter needed hospital treatment for cellulitis which had been caused by the pulling of her hair. Doctors have said her hair may never grow back on the damaged part of her scalp, she added. Aolani also had to shave the rest of her head to avoid infection.
She is currently receiving treatment from a dermatologist who said she may need a skin graft and a hair transplant.
“I want parents to listen, document and immediately contact the school when their kids say something has happened,” said Sarah Charles, her mother. “We also need to teach children to be kind to each other.”
“I’m a nervous wreck about the whole thing,” said great-grandmother Janette Carroll. “Her hair was in bad shape and she was taking strong medication.”
“The patch [of missing hair] was as big as a baseball. The hair still hasn’t grown back but her scalp is starting to heal,” she added.
“She has a right to come to school with her hair as she wants and to be left alone,” said Bearden.
Carroll County Schools released a statement saying the “administration immediately investigated and dealt with the students who had engaged in the behavior and appropriate disciplinary action was taken against them.”
TheGrio contacted the school and at the time of publication they were unable to comment.
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