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Hair braiding in the Black community has historically been both a grooming and a bonding experience. But for Maryland teacher Marquise White, it ignited a social media debate that questioned whether it’s something that is appropriate in a classroom.

White went viral after posting a video of his students helping him take out his braids in preparation for an upcoming rebraid.

Over 7 million people saw the video, which generated both supportive and critical responses. While some applauded White and his crew of student hairstylists (each equipped with their own comb) others say that White crossed the line between teacher and study by not setting appropriate boundaries.

White is a science teacher at Maya Angelou French Immersion School in Hillcrest Heights, near Washington D.C. He says that class had ended early for the day, and that the female students were helping him as he had to appear in a school promotional video and didn’t have time to take his braids out himself before a hair appointment.

“If I was a female teacher, those people wouldn’t be in the comments saying ‘Oh, this is weird,” he said in a follow-up TikTok. White has almost 800,000 followers on his account where he often shares videos from his classroom.

“To me, it’s literally just hair,” he added. “It doesn’t have to be weird. Some people have never had cool teachers, and it shows.”

But the school district he teaches in thought otherwise. White has been reassigned while an investigation goes on, per a spokesperson for the Prince George’s County Public Schools.

“The staff member in question has been reassigned out of the classroom pending the outcome of the investigation,” a statement read.  

Though White defended himself in several subsequent videos, he’ll have plenty of time to consider whether he overstepped any boundaries. He believes that his actions were just part of an effort to nourish a bond with his mostly Black students.

“Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Teaching is a work of heart,” the initial video was captioned. But a user named Seagertree summed up the critical reactions to the video.

“Dude … at the end of the day….youre struggling so hard to prove you didn’t cross the boundaries you’ve clearly crossed. You have some maturing to do.”

See how social media is reacting to the debate below.

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