Sarah McLean, chief of staff for regional operations for Teach for America and a friend of the Jenkins family, said she contacted Cristo Rey officials, who confirmed the policy about a week after Danielle informed her that she would not apply to the school because of it.

McLean said she was disturbed by the reasons she was given for the policy. She said she was told the policy was in place because the school's corporate internship partners consider dreadlocks unprofessional, the costs of maintenance are burdensome for parents, and the school didn't want to determine what was "kempt" versus "unkempt."

Lennon said she could not comment on why the policy existed.

McLean, who received a phone call Monday from Cristo Rey to inform her of the policy change, said she was hopeful but questioned why such a policy had been in place at a school in a city that serves an urban population.

"I was just shocked and baffled," McLean said. "To think that she was going to have to choose between her identify and academic future, it broke my heart and also made me really angry. I just thought there's no way we live in a world, particularly Baltimore City, that still has a school that has this policy — a school whose mission it is to advance the opportunities for students just like Danielle."

Area public schools don't restrict hairstyles, but generally do have rules about headwear, such as hats, that are not worn for religious or safety purposes. The Baltimore school system states that "students may wear their hair in any style they choose, provided the hair is kept neat and clean."

While nonpublic schools tend to have more flexibility in their dress codes, some in Baltimore do not have hairstyle restrictions. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore said that its schools have no such policy.

Before the policy reversal, the ACLU of Maryland said in a statement that private schools that receive public funding should not employ such stringent hairstyle restrictions.

"When private and religious schools solicit and accept state subsidies, like funding for textbooks and technology as Cristo Rey does," the ACLU said, "those schools should agree not to discriminate against prospective students, including discrimination based on religious and ethnic hairstyles."

erica.green@baltsun.com

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