In a late decision Monday night, the judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled that a Texas school district’s hair policy is discriminatory. Two Black students were suspended earlier in the year over the length of their dreadlocks.
Barbers Hill High School student DeAndre Arnold was suspended from school for his dreadlocks in January 2020. Arnold, who was a senior at the time, was not allowed to attend classes or his graduation unless he cut his hair.
When the controversy first started the superintendent, Greg Poole stated,
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.
Arnold’s cousin, Kaden Bradford, a sophomore, was attending a different school in the same district. Bradford was suspended by school officials and indefinitely enrolled in “in-school suspension” if he refused to cut his hair.
Both students filed grievances on Jan. 27. The claim was then followed by a lawsuit, contending that the policy unfairly enforced against them. Both students have worn dreadlocks for years. Arnold has explained that the dreadlocks are apart of his culture and identity. Their family is from Trinidad, and the men in his family often grow their dreadlocks to below their waist.
According to The Texas Tribune, Christina Beeler, a former attorney with the Juvenile and Capital Advocacy Project at the University of Houston Law Center, looked through old Barbers Hill High School’s yearbooks, there were several photos of white students with long hair. Beeler said,
White male students aren’t being held to same standard. It’s so clear that white male students and black students are being treated differently.
The NAACP’s Legal and Defense and Educational Fund are representing both students and their families. Attorney Michaele Turnage Young said.
Locs are communicative, they express pride in one’s Black racial heritage, family heritage. It’s 2020, this is a basic recognition … but to have a federal court recognize that, it’s a huge step in the right direction.
Both students transferred to schools outside of this district while the lawsuit was filed and pending. Due to the judge granting this temporary order, Bradford will now be able to return to his former high school to start his junior year without the threat of suspension. Arnold, who was a senior, was unable to graduate from Barbers Hill.