CINCINNATI -- A letter spelling out the dress code for a holiday concert at Pleasant Run Middle School started a firestorm on Facebook over the weekend.
The letter was posted and shared hundreds of times. Comments from Facebook said the requirements targeted black students and were racist. Many called for the teacher who sent it, vocal music teacher Steven Reeves to be fired. Reeves, who is black, was hired in August and his listed educational background said he had a masters degree and hours towards his doctorate with five years of experience.
The letter, sent to parents of middle school students in the vocal ensemble, was explicit in its direction as to how students who were participating should look.
The letter instructed boys that they should "receive appropriate barber attention the evening before the concert. Mohawks, 'Barber Designs' and Large Afros are unacceptable," the letter said. "Men with long hair (i.e. Dreadlocks or Braids) should devote the necessary attention to make sure that hair is neat and pulled behind the neck in a conservative ponytail style."
Girls were "strongly encouraged to visit the cosmetologist the evening before the concert. Hair must be styled in a manner that will not draw any specific attention to an individual performer on stage. Therefore bright colors such as Pink or Red are not permissible."
The letter said Mohawks, large afros or "any other outlandish hairstyle is not acceptable. It is preferred that ladies style their hair in a simple bun or conservative hairstyle appropriate for a concert performance."
Students who are not in compliance with the grooming code will be sent home the evening of the concert and "subsequently forfeit the grade for the concert and second marking period, according to the letter.
Reeves, the vocal music teacher at Pleasant Run Middle School, said in the letter it is his first year at the school.
The Northwest Local School District changed its dress code this year after getting input from parents of students in the district. Language concerning hair color, piercings and not allowing girls to wear dresses was not in the new code.
The letter, which was apparently sent out on Friday caused a stir once it was posted on Facebook.
School and district officials responded on Facebook and Twitter over the weekend, apologizing for the letter and promising a new set of guidelines would be sent out on Monday.
In 2017, the Northwest Local School District created a diversity committee with 30 diverse staff, parents, and community members. The committee developed a diversity plan divided into 5 distinct pillars: Curriculum, Leadership, Community Engagement, Staffing, and Student Engagement. One strategy identified was to begin district-wide training for all employees on cultural sensitivity and proficiency.
The district could not be reached for comment.