A black teenager in Texas said he had been suspended and told he can’t walk in his high school graduation ceremony unless he cuts his dreadlocks to meet the school district’s dress code.
DeAndre Arnold, a senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, about 30 miles east of Houston, told NBC affiliate KPRC in Houston that his hair always used to be in compliance with school rules.
His mother, Sandy Arnold, said his family is from Trinidad and he’s worn dreadlocks for years to celebrate that culture, always following the school’s dress code by tying them up.
After Christmas break, three months before graduation, Sandy Arnold said the Barbers Hill Independent School District changed its dress code as it refers to hair. Now the rules stipulate “hair must be clean and well groomed” and not extend on male students, at any time, below the eyebrows, the ear lobes or the top of a T-shirt collar — including when let down.
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“They say that even though my hair is up and I follow all of the regulations, that if it was down, it would be out of dress code,” DeAndre Arnold told KPRC. “Not that I’m out of dress code, but if I was to take it down, I would be out of dress code, which doesn’t make any sense. Because I don’t take it down at school.”
Sandy Arnold said that, as a result of the rule change, her son has been suspended and can’t attend graduation until he complies with the dress code. When asked if she would cut his hair, she responded, “Absolutely not.”
“This is his belief,” she said. “This is a part of who he is. This is his culture.”
Sandy Arnold could not immediately be reached at numbers listed for her.
On Wednesday, Houston Texans wide receiver Deandre Hopkins tweeted his support for the teen, telling him to “never cut” his dreadlocks.
The Barbers Hill Independent School District did not immediately return a request for an interview Wednesday. As of the 2017-18 school year, Barbers Hill High School had a student body that is predominantly white, according to data posted online by The Texas Tribune.
The superintendent, Greg Poole, appears to have addressed the issue in a statement posted on the district’s website, explaining that it allows “any legally accepted religious or medical exemptions” to its dress code and have allowed such exemptions in the past.
Poole said the district’s board of trustees, “which has included African American representation, takes their role of representing the local community as one of their chief priorities.”
“We will continue to be a child-centered district that seeks to maximize the potential of EVERY child,” he continued. “Local control is sacred to this country, and we will NOT be bullied or intimidated by outside influences.”