Sandra Plummer thought she was righting an injustice.
After students of color were turned away from a professional hair event hosted by the New Hampshire Job Corps Center in Manchester because stylists didn’t know how to work on their hair, Plummer took it upon herself to host a “night of care”.
“We don’t have easy-to-manage hair, so the day the other girls went to the gym to get their hair done, it left a few of us girls out,” one student wrote in a note to Plummer. . “It hurt us because, in a way, no one thought of us.”
Plummer, the only licensed color consultant in her program, said she found a stylist who could work on the students’ hair, and when the Job Corps program refused to pay for the services, she found that the YWCA, a local community organization, was willing to host and pay for the event.
Less than a month later, she lost her job.
Job Corps, a program of the United States Department of Labor, is the nation’s largest technical training and vocational education program for low-income people ages 16 to 24. Many in the Manchester community see the program as a way to uplift students and improve employment opportunities. But several students of color at Manchester’s Job Corps Center said they faced harassment and discrimination while at school.
A Department of Labor spokesperson said the school’s hairdressing program did not meet the needs of all their students and “did not reflect the values of the Job Corps program”.
“The Job Corps program fully embraces the Department of Labor’s commitment to hold us to standards and expectations of equity, diversity and accessibility at least as high as those we apply in our work,” said the spokesman Edmund Fitzgerald in a statement.
Plummer believed that the “care night” was a way to help students relax and air their grievances. She said they talked about ways to deal with racism in a calm and peaceful way and wrote about the ways they felt mistreated while on the program.
“I was thrown food and called the N-word in front of staff,” one student wrote.
“I told my counselor because I wanted to quit and went to the manager and they acted like it wasn’t important and asked me what my tolerance level was,” another wrote.
“They gave me a random room search because I’m black,” wrote a third. “They said we were suspicious.”
The day after the “nursing night,” Plummer said she was brought to a meeting with her supervisors to discuss the event, where they asked her questions about what they had done and whether the students had signed something.
Shortly after, she received a letter stating that Adams and Associates, which hires staff for the Job Corps Center, was terminating her contract. Although the letter never mentioned the “care night,” Plummer couldn’t think of another reason for her dismissal — for seven years she said she had received rave reviews from her supervisors and students.
Plummer received the highest marks allowed on his 2020 and 2021 performance reviews, which were obtained by the To watch.
“I’ve never had a reprimand, warning, poor performance review, behavioral issues, policy violation, nothing,” she said.
Adams and Associates did not return a request for comment.
Plummer said she was preparing to file a civil suit against her former employers.
At a press conference on Thursday, hosted by NH Black Women Health Project, several advocacy groups pushed the Department of Labor to make sweeping reforms to the program they said were necessary but deeply flawed.
Manchester NAACP chairman James McKim said he wanted Job Corps to take a number of steps to address the situation, including conducting diversity and inclusion training for staff, engaging an independent investigator to look into the initial capillary event and reprimanding the personnel involved in the incident. .
“These actions left interns of color shaken, frustrated and demoralized – the complete opposite of what the program claimed to do,” he wrote.
He also said Plummer should receive compensation for the months she was unemployed.
Plummer said she believes students and staff should be educated about the history of slavery and the pillars of diversity and inclusion.
“There are a lot of things that can be done to prevent this from continuing to happen and in the future, and those educational components and trainings have not been put in place,” she said.
A spokesperson for the US Department of Labor said it would require all center operators to require staff to complete diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility training, to avoid circumstances similar in the future.