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Posted by Cody-Kilgore Unified Schools on Wednesday, September 25, 2019
The Cody Kilgore Unified Schools in Nebraska is based right across the border from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Native Sun News Today: Border town school cuts student’s hair

Native Sun News Today Correspondent

PIERRE – A woman claims her daughter’s hair was cut at the elementary school she attends to check for lice. This was done without permission, and against school policy.

Alice Johnson-Leroy has been living in Kilgore, Nebraska, for the past thirty years. Kilgore is a border town located just across the Nebraska state line, south of the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Johnson-Leroy herself attended the Cody Kilgore Unified School as a child and says this is where she wants to raise her children and put them through school. Married to wife, Norma, for the past four years, together the couple have four children; Kyla Starboy is 14 years old, Amyrah Starboy is 10 years old, Madelyn Leroy is 6 years old, and Alissandra is 4 years old.

According to Johnson-Leroy, she has had very little problems in the past with the school, or school officials.

“We have experienced little troubles but always talked them over with the superintendent. I always felt like he took care of the problems,” she said. “There are very few Native students in the school, I have another niece and nephew in the school and there is one other student who is Native American.”

The long-time Kilgore resident says there are approximated 160 students in the school district and 8 are tribal members.

Amyrah and Madeline had their hair allegedly cut during school hours as school officials searched for head lice at Cody-Kilgore Unified Schools in Nebraska. Familly photo

“I've always felt racism is strong in this border town but I've never said anything about it because this is my home and I never wanted to believe it was racist. Like when we go to school events, people smile and talk to us but when we sit in the bleachers, whatever area we sit in, we are always the only ones in that area.” The family is aware of this marginalization but does not give it much attention or acknowledgement. “When I was in school, kids would ask me about Lakota names and make fun of our names. To me it has always been normal because this is where I grew up.”

During two recent trips to Rapid City to attend a birthday and short trip away from Nebraska, the family stayed at a popular water park. The first trip was during the weekend of February 21st. Following the trip to the Black Hills town, the kids returned to school on the following Monday. That afternoon, the school secretary, Maryanne Logterman, had called to inform the parents their daughter, Madelyn, had had head lice. Johnson-Leroy claims the school secretary had thought the head lice had come from being at the water park in Rapid City.

“Norma picked Madelyn up from school and cleaned her head. That day, Amyrah came home and told me that Marvanne had head checks in the kindergarten, 2nd grade, and 4th grade classes,” she said. “At first I thought, ‘Is she targeting our kids?’ because she only checked their classes for head lice. We got Maddi cleaned out and sent her back to school February 27th. That following weekend, we went back to Watiki Water Park for a birthday party.”

Once again upon returning from Rapid City, the school secretary had called Johnson-Leroy to inform her that her daughter, Amyrah, had also had head lice. The mother claims the school official had said they school had a ‘fun day planned’ and that her child could stay in school if she wanted to. “Amyrah was a little embarrassed and chose to come home. I looked in Amyrah's head and found no signs of headlice,” she said.

During that evening, Johnson-Leroy said the family was at her mother’s residence when she overheard her daughter and niece talking. Her daughter was allegedly asked, "Amyrah, did Maryanne cut your hair too?" This is when the mother intervened and the two girls told them the school secretary cuts their hair. This is done in order to search for lice, according to Johnson-Leroy.

“I was a little confused. Norma called the superintendent Adam Lambert and told him what happened and we would appreciate if she (Maryanne Logterman) wouldn't cut their hair anymore. He said he would talk to her. We sent Amyrah back to school Wednesday,” she said. That morning about 11 a.m., Marvanne called me and said, ‘Alice I had to cut Amyrah's hair because of head lice.'"

Johnson-Leroy claims she told the school secretary to stop cutting her children’s hair. She was informed this was necessary to determine if it was head lice or not.

“I said, ‘It's our traditional way to not cut our hair, unless for ceremonial purposes. STOP CUTTING THEIR HAIR!’”


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