Deandre Arnold, a black student at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas, has been told that he won’t be allowed to walk at his graduation ceremony unless he cuts his locs, NBC’s KPRC reported on January 23.
KPRC sat down with Deandre and his mother, Sandy Arnold, to discuss how the new regulations had affected them. As the duo explained in a video interview and as ABC News noted, Deandre, an A and B student, had been given the option of either going to in-school suspension (ISS) or attending an alternative school so he’d still be able to graduate.
As the mother-son duo recounted, following these new regulations, Deandre wouldn’t be allowed to attend graduation with his peers unless he cut his locs. "I refuse to send him to ISS; he hasn't done anything wrong," his mother told ABC News. “This is a part of who he is, our beliefs,” she told KPRC.
"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 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. I don't take it down at school." Deandre, whose family is from Trinidad, is one of many men in his culture to grow locs. According to his mother, he’s had locs for years and has long worn them up, “above the earlobes and out of the eyes,” to be in compliance with the school’s dress code.
After news broke, Greg Poole, the school’s superintendent, told ABC News that the policy had only been clarified and not changed, saying that the policy only limits length, not type of hairstyle, but ABC reported that the minutes posted on the district's website from that board meeting show “revisions to the Student Dress Code/Procedures for processing requests” as an item on the meeting agenda.
A message from Poole was posted on the district’s website: “Our board of trustees, which has included African American representation, takes their role of representing our local community as one of their chief priorities,” it read. “We allow any legally accepted religious or medical exemptions to our dress code and have allowed such exemptions in the past. We will continue to be a child-centered district that seeks to maximize the potential of EVERY child. Local control is sacred to this country, and we will NOT be bullied or intimidated by outside influences.”
The policy on male hairstyles as stated in the school's handbook is that "Male students’ hair will not 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."
Deandre’s cousin, 16-year-old Kaden Bradford, who says he has also been told he can’t return to school due to his locs,had his hair cornrowed flat in an effort to comply with the school guidelines. Kaden’s mother, Cindy Bradford, told ABC News that he was told he would have to cut his hair to return to school.
Per KHOU, Black Lives Matter activist Ashton Woods commented on the matter, saying, "The dress code is designed by white people for white people and is damaging to black bodies." The Texas Tribune reported that as of the 2017–18 school year, Barbers Hill High School had a predominantly white (70.6%) student body, with black students making up only 3.1% percent.
Deandre isn’t the first black student whose hair has been the target of school guidelines. In 2018, a six-year-old Florida student was not allowed to attend the first day of classes because of his locs. In 2019, several states began putting in place laws to protect black hair and these types of discrimination.
Deandre’s mom told KHOU that she’s prepared to take legal action. "We're here for Deandre, but it's about more than that," she said. "This is about all the other Deandres that could come through Barbers Hill."
Teen Vogue has reached out to Barbers Hill's principal, Rick Kana, for comment.
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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue