A North Carolina High-school is under scrutiny after requiring a 16-year-old black student to cut her hair in the middle of a softball game to continue playing.
Today reports, Nicole Pyles, was wearing her hair in beaded knotless braids before her softball team’s final home game of the season on April 19, when the umpire told her coach that her hairstyle made it difficult to see the number on the back of her jersey. According to Nicole, she tucked her hair inside the collar of her shirt, but was forced to cut her hair after another complaint was made in the bottom of the second inning.
In an interview with the Today show, the high-school Pyles, 16 said
“I said something to the ump; I asked him … ‘You’ve seen me play before, so why is it an issue?’ And he said, ‘It’s a rule, so there’s not much I can do about it right now,'”
In an interview with WRAL, the 16-year-old recalls the humiliation she felt that day.
“My team, all of my friends were cutting out some of my beads. They snatched some of the beads out of my hair,” described Pyles. “I felt just so embarrassed and disrespected and just distraught at that point.”
According to the high-schooler, she had worn her hair in the same style before, and no one had ever told her it was a violation.
In a statement obtained by TODAY, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association said that they were following a regulation from the National Federation of State High School Associations, which provides uniform playing rules nationwide.
“As a member of NFHS, the NCHSAA follows all NFHS playing rules and regulations, including Softball rule 3-2-5 which states that ‘Plastic visors, bandanas and hair-beads are prohibited,'” said Commissioner Que Tucker in the statement. “This is not a new rule and when the violation was noticed by an umpire, the proper determination of illegal equipment was verified supported by the NFHS rule.”
Nicole and her father Julius Pyles, both believe the incident was intentional. In a phone interview with Today,
Her father, Julius Pyles, told TODAY by phone that he was “infuriated” by the situation when his daughter came home from the game and told him what had happened.
“I understand if there’s a rule, that rule should have been enforced from day one, not at the end of the season,” Julian Pyles said “To have someone literally pull stuff out of your hair and cut your hair, and then you’ve got to go out and be humiliated, that’s where I draw the line.
In response to the incident, Durham Public Schools, the district that includes both Nicole’s team and the opposing team, also released a statement, Wednesday, May 12 the district reportedly said they are “actively investigating the circumstances” that led to the incident.
“Durham Public Schools recognizes that the National Federation of State High School Associations has a specific rule (rule 3-2-5) against hair-beads, however, DPS believes this rule is culturally biased,” said the district.