- DeAndre Arnold, a senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas, is fighting to change his school district’s dress code, according to Click 2 Houston.
- Arnold was given an in-school suspension over his dreadlocks and was told he couldn’t participate in graduation unless he cut the locs short.
- The teen said the dreadlocks honor his Trinidadian culture, adding that he wears them up when he’s in class.
- The school district’s dress code says male students must keep their hair shorter than their ears and eyebrows.
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A black teen in Texas who was given an in-school suspension over his long dreadlocks was told he wouldn’t be able to walk in his graduation ceremony unless his locs were cut short.
DeAndre Arnold, his parents, and a number of activists attended a school board meeting for Barbers Hill Independent School District in Mont Belvieu, Texas, on Monday in hopes of fighting its dress code, which bars male students from having hair longer than their ears or eyebrows.
Arnold, a senior at Barbers Hill High School, told Click 2 Houston that he wants to honor his family’s Trinidadian culture by wearing long dreadlocks, which are popular in the country.
He said that at school, he always wears his hair up, away from his shoulders and ears. But a dress code change over winter break now bans that style as well.
“They say that even (when) my hair is up, if it were to be down it would be not in compliance with the dress code. However, I don’t take it down in the school,” he told Click 2 Houston.
Activists say the policy is racially discriminatory
During the school board meeting on Monday, members of the Black Lives Matter organization and the United Urban Alumni Association argued that the dress code rule was discriminatory toward black students.
Barber Hills ISD has 5,379 students, according to its website. While 70.6% of the students are white, 3.1% are black.
“Let’s stop with the dress code. This not about dress code, this is about policing black boys,” one activist said at Monday’s meeting, according to Click 2 Houston.
Hair-based discrimination against natural styles, including dreadlocks and braids, can target black communities, where such styles have cultural importance and historical significance. Because of this, banning such styles — or banning the length of such styles — can perpetuate harmful and racist stereotypes about hair while also determining what is seen as a “professional” haircut.
Barber Hills Superintendent Greg Poole said the dress code is not about race.
“There is no dress code policy that prohibits any cornrow or any other method of wearing of the hair,” he told KHOU. “Our policy limits the length. It’s been that way for 30 years.”
According to the district’s school handbook, male students’ hair cannot “extend, at any time, below the eyebrows, or below the earlobes. Male students’ hair must not extend below the top of a T-shirt collar or be gathered or worn in a style that would allow the hair to extend below the top of a t-shirt collar, below the eyebrows, or below the ear lobes when let down.”
A spokesperson for the school district told Insider that the dress code bans “any action that circumvents or violates the provision regarding hair length.”
On Wednesday, Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins — who has shoulder-length dreadlocks — encouraged the teen not to cut his hair.
“Never cut your locks Deandre Arnold,” he said on Twitter, where he has more than 450,000 followers.
—Deandre Hopkins (@DeAndreHopkins) January 22, 2020
DeAndre’s mother, Sandy Arnold, said she wants the hair rule changed.
“We’re here for DeAndre, but it’s about more than that,” she told KHOU. “This is about all the other DeAndres that could come through Barbers Hill.”
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