Georgia school faces backlash over display of 'appropriate' and 'inappropriate' black hairstyles

"That those are all little black faces and those are traditional black hairstyles makes it worse," said the woman who posted the image on social media.

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By Janelle Griffith

An elementary school in Georgia is facing backlash over a display depicting "appropriate" and "inappropriate" hairstyles for students.

All of the children featured on the poster — taken down Thursday, the same day it had been put up at Narvie J. Harris Traditional Theme School in Decatur — are black.

A display on the wall of the Narvie J. Harris Theme School in Decatur, Georgia.Danay Wadlington / via Facebook

Danay Wadlington, who uploaded the now-viral photo to Facebook on Aug. 1, is the owner of a beauty salon in the nearby city of Duluth.

Wadlington told NBC News on Monday that she posted the photo — which has been shared more than 4,000 times on Facebook — as well as on Instagram and in tweets, after it was sent to her by a client, whose child goes to the school.

That woman did not want to be identified. She said she took the photo at a school orientation.

The children's faces were shielded by yellow Post-It notes. It is unclear if they were students at the school, which has a student body that is almost entirely black.

"It wouldn’t have been so bad had they included other races, but the fact that those are all little black faces and those are traditional black hairstyles, makes it worse," Wadlington said. "They already have them wearing uniforms, why not let them have some individuality with their hair."

Wadlington said she believes the school took down the display — which shows boys with varying fades and tapered afros, and girls with braided styles — only following public outcry.

According to the poster, designs etched into a male student's hair were "inappropriate," while cuts featuring hair even across the head were deemed acceptable. The wearing of hair barrettes by female students was labeled "inappropriate."

Jason Allen, an educator in Atlanta, was among those to assert the display was racially insensitive.

"This type of display of cultural insensitivity is due to a lack of oversight, accountability, professional decorum and quite frankly, care and concern for the social and emotional impact of black children by this school’s leadership and PTA," Allen said in a statement.

"Imagine being a black boy greeted by this," Allen also said, adding it was indicative of "systematic bias against black boys."

Narvie J. Harris Traditional Theme School is in the DeKalb County School District, Georgia’s third-largest school system, serving nearly 102,000 students. Neither the school district nor the principal returned NBC News' requests for comment Monday.

Dekalb County School District officials told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the images were not representative of its systemwide grooming policy.

“The images depicted in this post in no way reflect a policy regarding appearance,” officials said in a statement. “This was a miscommunication at the school level and is being handled by school leadership. Nontraditional schools at (the DeKalb County School District) sometimes have the option to enforce dress code and style standards.”

The school district did not say who was responsible for the display.

The incident comes at a time when cities and states across the country are making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a person’s hairstyle.

Last month, California and New York became the first states to ban discrimination based on natural hairstyles, such as braids, Bantu knots, twists and locs.

Earlier this year, the New York City Commission on Human Rights issued new guidance that banned discrimination on the basis of hair or hairstyle in workplaces, schools and public places.