A Black high school senior is breathing a sigh of relief after filing a federal lawsuit against his school district in order to walk across the graduation stage this Friday because he was told by his high school principal his locs were too long and he needed to cut them.
A judge has granted motion permitting Treyvion Gray, 18, to march across the graduation stage after the high school senior was told by his principal, he would not be able to graduate because of the length of his locs.
In a lawsuit filed by Gray last month, Moore says the suit calls the hair policy discriminatory on a basis of gender and how it is being enforced. The suit also claims the hair policy violates Gray’s First Amendment rights, citing his hairstyle as a form of expression.
At a hearing on May 4, Gray and Moore had a hearing on the case seeking immediate relief from the school district’s sanctions.
“The hearing is essentially seeking a temporary restraining order and asking the court order the school district to put him back in in-class instruction and enjoin them from making him cut his locs,” Moore said.
A day after the May 4 hearing, a judge granted the motion for the temporary restraining order allowing Gray back on campus after he was barred from school property and events because his hair violated school policy.
“Everybody was loving me, they were happy to see me and stuff they were like oh my God, you’re back, they were happy to see me so I felt real good,” Gray said after returning to his high school campus on May 6.
Despite the motion granted by the judge, Gray and Williams’ joy were short-lived because the school district appealed the judge’s decision, meaning the chances of the 18-year-old marching across the graduation stage could slip away.
“He was able to go back to school on Thursday and so by Friday, the school had filed an appeal in regards to the TRO so now we’re having to wait on that decision to see if the judge is going to continue to uphold or to see what happens,” Williams said.
With luck on his side, on May 10, a judge denied the school district’s appeal.
Gray is expected to graduate on May 20 from Needville High School in Needville, Texas, about 40 miles south of Houston.
Gray is a self-described good student making mostly B’s and only struggling with math on occasion. His senior year was going smoothly until early April, when he says he was approached by his principal citing the district’s hair policy.
Needville Independent School District’s hair policy says, “Boys hair shall not cover any part of the ears, beyond the eyebrows, or over the top of a standard collar in the back when combed down.”
Gray says he started growing his dreadlocks during his sophomore year. “At first when I started growing them, they were small, but as the policy says once it touches your ears or goes below your eyes, they’ll tell you to cut it,” Gray said.
Brahna Williams, Gray’s mother, says she feels her son is being targeted and because he is Black. “I can’t say I brought it to them in regards to it being a racial issue simply because they are already aware that it is” referring to Needville High School officials.
In addition to not being able to graduate with his classmates, Gray was sent to alternative school and banned from attending extracurricular activities because his hair length extending beyond his ears violates the district’s hair policy.
Gray says school officials were not policing white male students as strictly as he was targeted, and the family’s hired attorney, Melissa Moore agreed.
“If you just take a gander at Needville’s social media, there are loads and loads of pictures of Caucasian male students who are in violation of their hair policy,” Moore said.
Atlanta Black Star sought comment from the Needville Independent School District on the hair policy and a response to claims white students are getting preferential treatment with the policy’s enforcement. The district has not responded to our request before this report was filed.
Moore said Texas does not have a law on the books outlawing hair discrimination, unlike other states including California and New Jersey which have passed laws banning hair discrimination under their versions of the CROWN Act. At the federal level, the CROWN Act passed the House of Representatives but has not progressed in the Senate.
“In the Black community, growing that hair is a symbol of pride and it’s a connection to your roots and where you come from,” Williams said of the importance of hair within Black culture.
“It represents my culture, this is how I am, this is how I express myself.”