Hairstyles bring disciplinary action Donna Tate-Allison (left) was fired for 'extreme' hair. Juanita Hudson was also suspended and filed a grievance. SCOTT NEVILLE/THE FREE LANCE-STAR http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2007/072007/07022007/295982 Battle over braids pits Haynesville prison guards against Department of Corrections Date published: 7/2/2007 BY EDIE GROSS When she served in the Army, Donna Tate-Allison's colleagues called her sergeant. When she worked in communications at the White House, Bill Clinton called her ma'am. And during her first 18 months working at the Haynesville Correctional Center, everyone called her officer. But recently, officials at the prison about 60 miles southeast of Fredericksburg branded the 46-year-old with a nickname she never bargained for: "extreme." She was fired in May for violating the Department of Corrections' grooming policy, which forbids "extreme, eccentric or trendy haircuts." Since then, the governor's office has gotten involved in the matter. Tate-Allison said Haynesville Warden Daniel T. Mahon told her that her short dreadlocks, which she pins tightly to her head underneath a hat, were not allowed. "I said, 'Is my hair a threat to the inmates? Is it a threat to the facility? If so, I'll cut it,'" Tate-Allison said. "He said, 'No, your hair is not a threat. It's extreme, and I'm not going to have it in my facility.'" Tate-Allison and fellow corrections officer Juanita Hudson, both African-Americans, said they felt they were being discriminated against. Hudson, who wears her hair in short braids against her scalp, said she was told in April that cornrows, dreadlocks and braids would not be allowed. "Everything that was read off was African-American hairstyles," said Hudson, 43. When she asked for a copy of the rule prohibiting those styles, she was told it didn't exist. So on May 2, she filed a grievance, which is still pending. "These people are not living in 2007," Hudson said. "I will put up with nepotism. I will put up with favoritism. But I'm not putting up with racism, and that's all it is." Mahon's secretary referred calls to Larry Traylor, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Corrections. Traylor said his office could not comment on personnel issues. "However, as we have indicated to those involved, we are currently reviewing our entire employee grooming policy," he said in an e-mailed statement. Defining 'extreme' Both women had worked at the Haynesville Correctional Center for about 18 months--much of that time with their hair in dreads or braids--before any trouble started. In April, Hudson was told her braids had to go. She thought as long as her grievance was pending, she could keep her hairstyle. But after officials suspended her for two days in May--only a day after giving her a favorable performance review--she took her braids out. Tate-Allison was also told her dreadlocks violated the policy. She said she told Mahon that if she cut her hair short, she would be left with "parts and sections," violating the department's ban on "trendy" hairstyles. And if she shaved her head bald, it would be considered extreme. She offered to wear a wig instead, but she said Mahon balked at that suggestion. "He said, 'That defeats the purpose,'" she said. ------------------- Virginia Department of Corrections policy 105.1 governs everything from fingernail and sideburn length to how much makeup a corrections officer can wear. Here are some excerpts from its rules on hair: It is not possible to address every acceptable hairstyle or what constitutes eccentric or conservative grooming. Supervisors will judge the appropriateness of a particular hairstyle by the appearance of headgear worn. Extreme, eccentric or trendy haircuts or hairstyles are not authorized. Applied colors that are prohibited include, but are not limited to, purple, blue, pink, green, orange, bright (fire engine) red and florescent or neon colors. Females will ensure their hair is neatly groomed, that the length and bulk of the hair are not excessive, and that the hair does not present a ragged, unkempt or extreme appearance. Trendy styles that result in shaved portions of the scalp or designs cut into the hair are prohibited.