A Texas teenager will be barred from his high school graduation if he doesn’t cut his locs.
Deandre Arnold, an 18-year-old in the Houston suburb of Mont Belvieu, has been growing his locs since he was in the seventh grade, but he didn’t experience any issues until this year. The teen and his family previously had an agreement with the Barbers Hill independent school district where Deandre attended for 10 years, reports Yahoo Lifestyle. The agreement allowed for an exemption because of its spiritual and cultural significance. Despite the agreement, an amendment was made, reportedly without the family’s knowledge.
After he came back from Christmas break, Arnold was sent to in-school suspension at Barbers Hill High School because his hair was too long. The teen was warned that if he did not cut his hair he would not be allowed to walk in his graduation ceremony.
“They said Deandre’s hair can’t touch the collar, ears or in the face,” his mother Sandy told KRIV. “It never really did, he’s always had it up.”
According to the student handbook, male students are not allowed to wear hairstyles that extend “below the eyebrows or below the ear lobes.”
This issue extends beyond a hairstyle: It’s a display of cultural pride.
“Hair is a part of his heritage, culture, his dad is a Trinidadian,” Sandy said. “How can I put him in a barber chair and say, ‘OK, Deandre, in order to graduate, let me cut your hair.’”
Deandre and his parents had several meetings with school officials and tried to get their plight on the school board’s agenda but they haven’t made any progress. They were eventually allowed to address the board on Monday with the help of members of the community, local station KHOU reported.
“This is a black and white issue,” Gary Monroe, of the United Urban Alumni Association, said during the meeting. “Deandre [and] his family should not have to go through this. But I expect it from a board that has zero diversity.”
“The dress code is designed by white people for white people and is damaging to black bodies,” Black Lives Matter’s Ashton Woods declared.
Despite impassioned pleas from the Arnolds and their supporters, the school district would not budge.
“There is no dress code policy that prohibits any cornrow or any other method of wearing of the hair,” said Superintendent Greg Poole. “Our policy limits the length. It’s been that way for 30 years.”
An unnamed resident cited the need for decorum as a reason to keep the policy.
“Without rules and regulations as we know them, we will face disorder,” the person said, according to KPRC.
Woods added to Yahoo in response to those supporting the district, “White people don’t get to determine what is and isn’t racism, and instead of exemplifying allyship, what I saw was a bunch of white people ‘white-peopling’ and messing over an exemplary student ─ which shouldn’t be a qualifier ─ by cutting his hair as a punitive measure for negative reinforcement.”
The Arnolds won’t go down without a fight, either.
“I won’t stand for anybody bullying my child,” David, Deandre’s dad, explained to KPRC. “He has rights. All he wants to do is graduate.”
“We’re here for Deandre, but it’s about more than that,” Sandy said. “This is about all the other Deandres that could come through Barbers Hill.”
Monroe gave the district two days to reconsider or “we’re taking this to federal court.”