Texas School District To Keep Policy That Forced Black Students To Cut Dreadlocks Or Leave

Thursday, July 23rd 2020, 10:03 am
By: CBS News

A school district in Texas' board of trustees has voted unanimously to keep a grooming policy that prevented two Black students from attending school unless they cut their dreadlocks, the ACLU announced Tuesday. The vote comes after the school district received national attention over the policy, which many have called racist and discriminatory. 

During a public meeting held Monday, the Barbers Hill Independent School District voted to dismiss grievances filed by the ACLU on behalf of Kaden Bradford and De'Andre Arnold — both of whom were suspended in January after they refused to cut their hair. The district "denied the grievances immediately after the arguments concluded without asking any questions or engaging in discussion," the ACLU said in a statement. 

The organization said that it, along with the Juvenile and Children's Advocacy Project of Texas, had asked the district to change the "discriminatory" policy, and provided over 200 pages of documentation showing white students with long hair. 

"It is evident that this policy discriminates against and harms Black students," Brian Klosterboer, an attorney for the ACLU of Texas, said in the statement. "The school district had the chance to examine systemic racism and change its discriminatory policies, but instead chose to continue spending taxpayer dollars to maintain this grooming code."

The school district did not immediately respond to CBS News' request for comment.

Bradford, a sophomore, wore his hair in dreadlocks for years while attending school in the district without complaint, according to the most recent grievance filed by the ACLU and JCAP. But in December 2019, the grievance claims, the school changed its policy to prevent hair that extended past a male student's earlobes even if it was gathered at the top of his head. 

He was confronted multiple times about his hair in January and suspended at the end of the month, according to the grievance. After a week, his mother transferred him to another school. 

"Importantly, Kaden also knows no one at his new school while his entire friend group from pre-K through sophomore year remains at Barbers Hill," the grievance said. "Kaden therefore seeks to return to BHISD immediately, as long as he is permitted to receive regular classroom instruction and participate in extracurricular activities without being forced to cut his natural Black hair." 

Arnold, Bradford's cousin, was also suspended in January. The district told the high school senior that he would not be able to walk at graduation unless he cut his dreadlocks. 

Arnold's family decried the decision. "We're here for DeAndre, but it's about more than that," said his mother, Sandy Arnold. "This is about all the other DeAndres that could come through Barbers Hill."

Arnold's suspension quickly drew national attention. He appeared on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" — where he was given $20,000 toward his college tuition — scored an invite to the Oscars, and received a shoutout from Houston football legend DeAndre Hopkins.

At the time of Arnold's suspension, Superintendent Greg Poole said the decision had nothing to do with race. 

"There is no dress code policy that prohibits any cornrow or any other method of wearing of the hair," he said. "Our policy limits the length. It's been that way for 30 years."

At the meeting on Monday, an attorney for the district also claimed the policy wasn't discriminatory, and claimed Bradford and Arnold wanted to attend the school because of its "high standards."

"They want the standards without having to meet the standards. They want to be treated differently. They're saying, 'We want the academic excellence, we want the excellence of Barbers Hill. But we don't want to comply with what it takes to achieve that,'" he said, according to Houston Public Media