A Texas high school is standing firm amid furor over a school dress code policy critics say is racist and discriminatory. Now, the moms of two teens facing disciplinary action for their refusal to cut their dreads are ready to let the controversy play out in court.
Barbers Hill High School was thrust into the spotlight this week after senior student Deandre Arnold, 18, was forced to choose when it comes to his locs, or run the risk of not being able to walk with his peers at graduation. His cousin, 16-year-old Kaden Bradford, is facing similar punishment and Bradford’s mother says the teen has been told he faces suspension if he reports to campus without cutting his hair.
“My son is having the same issue (as Deandre),” the teen’s mother, Cindy Bradford, told ABC News. “He’s a sophomore, he’s been growing his dreads out since sixth grade.”
It was shortly after Christmas break that the school’s principal, Rick Kana, informed her that Kaden’s hair had to be cut. Cindy Bradford said she tried to appease school officials by cornrowing her son’s dreads, but to no avail.
The frustrated mom said she’s unsure why the Barbers Hill Independent School District is suddenly pressuring her son and nephew to change their hair after allowing them to wear the style all these years.
Cindy Bradford said the teen’s hair had never been an issue until now.
“He had [dreads] last year. He took a headband, and pushed them off his shoulders. [The school] said if he kept them up like that it was no problem.”
Deandre Arnold’s mother has withheld her son from school after reportedly being given the choice to send him to an alternative school or have him report to daily in-school suspension if he doesn’t cut his hair. “I refuse to send him to ISS, he hasn’t done anything wrong,” Sandy Arnold, told ABC News.
The school’s dress and grooming policy, which prohibits male students’ hair from extending below the eyebrows, earlobes “or be gathered or worn in a style that would allow the hair to extend below the top of a t-shirt collar,” was changed following a Dec. 19, 2019, board meeting and now forbids male students from wearing adornments in their hair.
The controversy is the latest in a string of incidents involving Black students facing punishment over their hair due to policies that critics say are racially insensitive. The most prominent came in 2018 when a New Jersey high school varsity wrestler was forced to cut his dreads moments before a high-stakes match after a ref determined his hair wasn’t in regulation.
Hair discrimination has since become a hot-button issue, with New York and California passing legislation to ban grooming policies that unfairly target African-Americans.
However, Barbers Hill ISD Superintendent Greg Poole insists the policy isn’t about “cornrows or ethnicity,” but about hair length.
Poole also insists that the cousins are not suspended and “100 percent” are allowed to report to school.
“We allow dreadlocks and extensions,” Poole told ABC News. “We have a dress code on hair length that is uniformly applied to all students of all races. We have a legal right to that expectation.”
“There is no injustice being done,” he added.
Cindy Bradford disagrees and has already lawyered up over the dispute. Sandy Arnold, Deandre’s mother, said all options “on the table” right now as well.
Within recent days, Arnold, according to CNN, submitted an exemption form the district grants parents the option of completing for medical or religious reasons, allowing students to break the dress code in special circumstances. Arnold’s father is from Trinidad, where growing dreadlocks is a part of the culture, Sandy Arnold says.
Poole, who describes the students as “great kids,” told CNN the hair policy has been in place 30 years and that small changes have been made “clarifying rules around the exemption forms.”
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