A Trinidadian teen at a public high school in Texas has been suspended and told he can’t walk the graduation ceremony unless he cuts his dreadlocks in accordance with school policy. Barbers Hill High School senior Deandre Arnold told KPRC that he’d been in compliance with school rules until they recently changed it and are now requiring he cut his hair to the accepted length.
“They say that even though my hair is up and off of all the regulations that if it was down, it would be out of dress code, not that I’m out of dress code, but if I was to take it down, I would be out of dress code. That doesn’t make any sense,” Deandre Arnold.
The new rules state that “hair must be clean and well groomed” and not extend on male students, at any time, below the eyebrows, the ear lobes or the top of a T-shirt collar — including when let down.” His mother, Sandy Arnold, is calling out the injustice as an attack on his beliefs and culture telling KPRC, “This is his belief. This is a part of who he is. This is his culture… so absolutely not. I’m not going to cut his hair.”
The school is located in Mont Belvieu, about 30 miles east of Houston, with a student body that’s 4 percent Black and 73 percent white, according to Public School Review. In a statement posted on its Twitter account, the district said “BH DOES allow dreadlocks. However we DO have a community supported hair length policy & have had for decades. BH Is a State leader with high expectations in ALL areas!” They later tweeted about the scrutiny in a tone-deaf statement that attributed their strict rules to the academic success of their African American student body rather than addressing the policing of black hair and cultural discrimination.
2020 has only just begun but hair discrimination remains a problem in the United States despite certain states taking steps to prevent it. Last year alone there were several incidents involving students experiencing hair discrimination. Earlier this month reports came out that Baltimore is looking to ban hair discrimination, following in the footsteps of California and New York City who banned hair discrimination last year. But there is still a long way to go and it’s an issue that needs to be addressed on a national level.
Deandre is an A-B student and he’s not a problem but he’s being treated as such for his belief, his mom told KPRC. Deandre’s father, David Arnold, told the board this unrelenting punishment is a form of bullying: “I won’t stand for anybody bullying my child. He has rights. All he wants to do is graduate,” David said, KPRC reports.
“They have 48 hours to come up with a resolution or we’re taking this to federal court,” Arnold’s mother said, who plans on taking legal action if the school doesn’t allow her son to walk in his graduation.