Paul Salzetta Files Lawsuit on Behalf of 16-Year-Old Student Whose Hair Was Cut by School Employees

Cook County - March 8, 2022

Attorney Paul L. Salzetta is representing the family of a student who was subject to excessive and unfair treatment while attending a school program at David Speer Academy, a public school in Chicago. Isamar Padilla, a 16-year-old student, was attending an after-school ROTC program and exploring her interest in possible enlistment in the military after her graduation from high school. During the program, she was having difficulty maintaining her hair in a bun, the accepted hairstyle for the military. The instructor, Jose Nazario, complained that the Ms. Padilla's hairstyle was not in conformance to standards, and he threatened to cut her hair to a shorter length. Eventually, with the assistance of another employee, his daugher, Ariana Nazario, Mr. Nazario confined Ms. Padilla to a separate room and proceeded to sloppily cut her hair with scissors, even after she objected. Eight inches of hair were cut off, and while her hair had previously extended to her mid-torso, it was shortened to a length above her shoulders.

Mr. Salzetta has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Padilla and her parents against the school employees and their employer, the Noble Network of Charter Schools, which operates David Speer Academy. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants acted with malicious intent and that their actions constituted assault and battery and false imprisonment. It is seeking to recover compensation for these actions, as well as violations of Ms. Padilla's 14th amendment rights and the recently-passed Illinois Crown Act, which prohibits school uniform and dress code policies that restrict natural or textured hairstyles associated with students' race or ethnicity. The defendants' showed no regard for Ms. Padilla's physical and emotional well-being, and they subjected her to humility and embarrassment before her peers, causing significant emotional distress.

This lawsuit, which was filed on International Women's Day, calls out the deliberate bias that many young women face in schools based on their appearances and hairstyles. This is one of a number of recent lawsuits addressing this issue. Others include a 2021 lawsuit in Michigan in which a seven-year-old biracial girl who had her hair cut off by a teacher and a 2019 case in New Jersey in which a referee forced a high school wrestler with dreadlocks to cut his hair before allowing him to participate in a match. By taking legal action, the family hopes to draw attention to the changes that that schools must make to address gender bias, as well as the continuing need to ensure that women of all ages are treated equally.

American Association of Justice American Board of Trial Advocates Illinois State Bar Association Illinois Trial Lawyers Association
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