Teen Who Was Told To Cut Dreadlocks Surprised With $20,000 Scholarship

Thursday, January 30th 2020, 11:15 am

By: CBS News

Ellen DeGeneres and Alicia Keys are standing behind a black teenager from Texas who was told that he would not walk at graduation this spring if he doesn't cut his dreadlocks.

Deandre Arnold, an 18-year-old student at Barber Hills High School in Mont Belvieu, was told he won't be able to participate in his graduation ceremony unless he cuts his dreadlocks, which fall past his shoulders.

The school's policy states that male students' hair "must not extend below the top of a T-shirt collar, below the eyebrows, or below the ear lobes when let down."

After the policy controversy gained steam across the country, Arnold was invited to appear on "The Ellen Show" on Wednesday. 

"I'm here for you," DeGeneres said.

"You get good grades. You've never been in trouble, ever," DeGeneres said. "This is the first time anything has come up. And now, you haven't been in school for weeks because of this situation."

DeGeneres then asked Arnold if there were girls at his school with long hair.

"There's plenty of girls with long hair at my school," he responded. "If girls can have long hair, why can't I have long hair?"

DeGeneres said that was the point of her question and that she did not think the policy was fair.

"I just personally think you should be able to wear your hair however you want, especially if there's girls with long hair," she said. "What's the difference if girls have long hair and if guys have long hair?"

Arnold, who has worn dreadlocks since he was in seventh grade, said he styles his hair this way because of his father's culture.

"It's really important to me because my dad is from Trinidad, it's part of our culture and heritage. I really wish the school would kind of be open to other cultures and just, at least let us try to tell you some things. Don't just shut us out."

Arnold's mom thinks it's an issue of race.

"There's no people of color on the school board," she told "CBS This Morning" earlier this month. "They don't understand about his hair."

However, Superintendent Gregory Poole said the decision is not about race or the style of his hair, it's just about the length and abiding by a 30-year rule.

"We'd love to see DeAndre back in class, and there's no way we would inhibit him from graduating. But we are gonna be fair to the 6,200 other kids that have to comply by the same policy," Poole told "CBS This Morning."

Arnold told DeGeneres that if he goes back to school, he faces in-school suspension or alternative school, where students who misbehave are sent.

"I've worked for this all my life," he told DeGeneres. "I deserve this moment to walk across stage."

DeGeneres then called Alicia Keys on to the set to surprise the aspiring veterinarian with a check for $20,000 to go toward his college education. The audience erupted in cheers and applause.

"I want to tell you that, I couldn't believe the story when I heard it," Keys told Arnold. "I'm super proud of you for standing up for what you know is right. And I know that the school needs to do the right thing."

DeGeneres then faced the camera to plead with officials to change their minds.

"I am begging you. This kid is a good kid. He deserves to graduate, to walk with all the other kids," she said. "He's a good guy. I just am urging you to do the right thing. Please, change your mind."

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