A Texas school district is refusing to let a black teenager walk in his high school graduation ceremony unless he cuts his dreadlocks to meet the district’s dress code. The teen’s family, however, says the policy is discriminatory and is threatening to take legal action.
Although DeAndre Arnold has been wearing his hair in locs for years, his dreads have become the center of controversy three months before he is scheduled to graduate from the Barbers Hill High School, a predominantly white school in Mont Belvieu, 30 minutes from Houston, reports NBC News. After returning from Christmas break, the senior says he was told that he was in violation of his district’s revised dress code policy, which states that men’s hair cannot extend below the eyebrows, past the ear lobes, or touch the top of a T-shirt collar. Arnold, however, argues that he was in compliance with the policy because he keeps his dreads fixed in an up-do.
In an interview with NBC affiliate KPRC, Arnold said he wears his hair in dreads in order to honor his Trinidadian culture just like many of the men in his family. “I really like that part of Trinidadian culture,” he told the station. “So, I mean I really embrace that.”
His mother, Sandy Arnold, stands with her son, saying she will “absolutely not” cut his hair. “This is his belief,” she said. “This is a part of who he is. This is his culture. This is what we believe.”
The Barbers Hill Independent School District doubled down on its policy in a statement posted on its website that says their “community demands high expectations in all things including dress code.” It continues, “we allow any legally accepted religious or medical exemptions to our dress code and have allowed such exemptions in the past. We will continue to be a child-centered district that seeks to maximize the potential of EVERY child. Local control is sacred to this country, and we will NOT be bullied or intimidated by outside influences.”
Sandra Arnold is considering taking her son’s case to a federal court if the school board does not come up with a resolution, reports KHOU11.