A black Texas high school student of Trinidadian descent was handed down an in-school suspension and told he couldn't walk in his class graduation unless he cut his dreadlocks in keeping with the school's dress code, according to KPRC-TV. DeAndre Arnold attends Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, which is about 30 miles east of Houston and in the Barbers Hill Independent School District. DeAndre’s mother, Sandy Arnold, told KPRC her son is an A and B student and has dual credit classes and it's not until recently that his hair, which he grew to reflect his Trinidadian culture, became a target for school officials. “This is a part of who he is: our beliefs,” Sandy Arnold told the news station.
The school's dress code states: "Male students’ hair will not extend, at any time, below the eyebrows, or below the earlobes. Male students’ hair must not extend below the top of a t-shirt collar or be gathered or worn in a style that would allow the hair to extend below the top of a T-shirt collar, below the eyebrows, or below the ear lobes when let down." DeAndre said although some elements of the dress code have been in place since he became a student at the school, the district changed the policy three months before his graduation. “They say that even (when) my hair is up if it were to be down it would be not in compliance with the dress code,” he told KPRC. “However, I don’t take it down in the school.” The Barbers Hill School District said in a statement to the news station that, “we do have a community supported hair length policy & have had for decades. Barbers Hill is a state leader with high expectations in all areas,” the district said in the statement.
The Arnold family even took its case before the school board Monday on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and officials stood by the district policy, according to
KHOU. "The dress code is designed by white people for white people and is damaging to black bodies," Black Lives Matter activist Ashton Woods told the news station. Superintendent Greg Poole, however, contended in KHOU’s coverage: "There is no dress code policy that prohibits any cornrow or any other method of wearing of the hair. Our policy limits the length. It's been that way for 30 years."
Cases like that of DeAndre Arnold is why California, New Jersey, and New York legislators have passed laws explicitly banning hair discrimination recently. There is no such law in Texas, according to Spectrum News.
DeAndre Hopkins, a wide receiver with the Houston Texans who also has dreadlocks, weighed in on the controversy in a tweet Wednesday. “Never cut your locks DeAndre Arnold,” Hopkins said in the tweet. The student told local reporters he has no such plans. “It’s a sexist rule. My hair has nothing to do with my ‘excellence,’ as we say in Barbers Hill,” he told KHOU. “How smart I am, what job I’m going to get—my hair doesn’t determine that. I determine that for my character.”
Gerry Monroe, the executive director of the United Urban Alumni Association, told the news station the school board has "zero diversity," so its decision isn’t surprising. Still, the Arnold family will not end its fight against district officials. "They have 48 hours to come up with a resolution or we're taking this to federal court," Monroe told KHOU.
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