For his graduation, an African American student was forced to choose between walking with the rest of his class or compromising his cultural identity.
De'Andre Arnold from Texas had been growing out his dreadlocks for the past eight years in the Trinidadian style and was told to cut them off by his school last month.
Now, the senior has been suspended and will not be allowed to walk in his graduation unless he cuts his dreadlocks off.
Family members and supporters of Arnold gathered at the Barbers Hill Independent School District headquarters on Martin Luther King Day during a school board meeting and argued over the outdated dress code.
Texas teen Deandre Arnold has been suspended over his locs and graduation threatened if he doesn't cut them. This… https://t.co/Kq35XnOjHW— Hello Beautiful (@Hello Beautiful) 1579719601.0
The board meetings have not had more than two speakers in their history.
That changed on Monday night when sixteen people showed up to speak out against the "racially insensitive" dress code affecting Arnold.
Arnold's father, who attended the charged meeting, said it was a "Black and White issue," and a supporter echoed his sentiment by adding:
"This dress code was designed by White people for White people that is damaging to Black bodies."
You can watch the video of the KHOU 11 report here.
A Barbers Hill ISD board member denied the controversy was a racial issue and said there was no policy against cornrows or "any method of the wearing of the hair."
He also emphasized that the more than 30-year old policy limits the length of one's hair, not the cultural style.
Twitter called out the antiquated policy.
@wfaa “We’ve done it that way for 30 years” is not an acceptable justification for imposing arbitrary rules. A lot… https://t.co/DgE5wcOVVL— Cowtown Crime Blog (@Cowtown Crime Blog) 1579717511.0
@wfaa If this isn’t about race and gender bias then what is it about!? Having a 30 year old policy in place means… https://t.co/IyKz8Xr2vx— Greg Lee (@Greg Lee) 1579708802.0
@KathyAPorter @wfaa Addenda: The policy is also racist and needs to be adjusted.— Tia Will (@Tia Will) 1579807778.0
@wfaa Tip: When a "rule" was put into place in the previous century, it might be time to reexamine that rule to det… https://t.co/v5rLChzjnx— AB Bond 🦄 (@AB Bond 🦄) 1579802921.0
The district – which prides itself on excellence – says the dreadlocks are in violation of its dress code according to this written stipulation.
"Male students' hair will not extend, at any time, below the eyebrows or below the ear lobes. 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 handful agreed with the district and asked not to make any exceptions while a good majority rejected the alleged racist policy.
@RedCTVcom @wfaa It’s not just hair to them! To have dreadlocks, sisterlocks, brotherlocks, etc. is part of a cultu… https://t.co/vVBh8uxcNm— Diamond Carter (@Diamond Carter) 1579806979.0
A commenter notes that the family would like support for this! Please call the Barbers Hill ISD to voice your opini… https://t.co/CsWEyUtgL2— N. K. Jemisin (@N. K. Jemisin) 1579798443.0
People asked why the district would wait until three months before graduation to enforce the dress code.
@wfaa The question is: are there other male students of other ethnicities w/ long hair? How long has his hair been… https://t.co/o0x0P0NYFD— T.P. (@T.P.) 1579713494.0
@wfaa His hair didn’t suddenly grow too long overnight in December. So if they didn’t enforce their rule before, why start now?— TweedleDee (@TweedleDee) 1579739007.0
Arnold's father proposed an ultimatum:
"They have 48 hours to come up with a resolution."
"If not, we're going to take this to court, because they're in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that pertains to discriminating against somebody in regards to their religion."
People in support of Arnold on social media told him not to give in to the bullying by the school district and said that the style of his hair should not get in the way of his future.
Deandre Arnold. Do not let your school bully you into cutting your locks. Your look does not reflect your scholar… https://t.co/S49VDikCrm— Dr. B. Kent Wallace (@Dr. B. Kent Wallace) 1579742813.0
@wfaa Absolutely absurd! This child has met academic standards and earned the right to graduate and you want to tak… https://t.co/g0e6oHnlYt— Steph Chris (@Steph Chris) 1579707149.0
@wfaa This is ridiculous. His hair is perfectly fine, not any kind of distraction to learning. He's worked for that… https://t.co/MvnmLW3csE— Kelly Young (@Kelly Young) 1579711947.0
Never cut your locks Deandre Arnold.— Deandre Hopkins (@Deandre Hopkins) 1579705787.0
Standing with Deandre Arnold. Your locs are beautiful and you shouldn’t have to cut them to be able to walk in your… https://t.co/lMIxaYStJ4— Matthew A. Cherry (@Matthew A. Cherry) 1579800389.0
Barbers Hill ISD issued the following statement on Tuesday.
"Barbers Hill ISD has a long standing dress code, but we absolutely allow dreadlocks."
"What we do not allow is any action that circumvents or violates the provision regarding hair length."
"The student in question was NEVER forbidden from attending school."
"The U.S. Constitution allows a school board the right to implement local community expectations, and Barbers Hill ISD's continual academic and extra-curricular successes are a direct result of our communities' high expectations."