A Texas school district ordered two Black high school students not to return to school unless they cut their locs.
On Monday a federal judge blocked the school from carrying out the suspension of one of the young men, Kaden Bradford, allowing him to return to school without cutting his hair.
Barbers Hill Independent School District is majority white and has refused to change its dress code, which is deemed racist by many.
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A Black Texas high school student is allowed to return to class this year without cutting his locs, a Federal judge ruled Monday.
Kaden Bradford and his cousin De’Andre Arnold made national headlines in January when they were told by the Barbers Hill Independent School District that they couldn’t come to school unless change their appearance.
Their families sued the district in federal court in Houston, claiming that the schools dress code, forbidding long hair, is unconstitutional as discriminates based on race, sex, and is in violation of freedom of expression.
While the case is ongoing, US District Court Judge George Hanks issued a preliminary injunction that orders the district to allow Bradford back without changes to his hair.
Arnold had transferred to a different school for the end of his senior year.
“The court’s granting of our request means that K.B. no longer has to endure an unjust and educationally-damaging in-school suspension simply for having uncut locs, which are an immutable part of his Black identity and cultural heritage,” his attorney Ja nai Nelson, of the Legal Defense Fund, said in a statement.
Hanks’ memo notes that data reviewed by attorneys show that Black students at Barbers Hill High School were three times more likely that their white classmates to lose at least one day of instruction because of the hair policy. The data also showed that Black students who were placed in in-school suspension lost an average of 3.5 days of class, which which students lost an average of one day.
“In other words, there is credible statistical evidence in the record showing that African-American students were more likely than white students to be punished, and to be punished harshly, on account of the hair-length policy,” Hanks’ wrote in the injunction, which was viewed by Insider.
Hanks also said that Kaden showed “a substantial likelihood” that his rights under the equal protection clause and the First Amendment will be violated in the injunction was denied.
The district’s hair policy requires that male students not have hair that extends past the collar, earlobes and eyes.
Students used to be able to keep their hair long, but comply by the dress code by wearing it up. In 2019 the school board made the code more stringent, requiring that that the hair has to be short even if it was pulled back, according to court documents.
Attorneys for the teens had previously argued in front of the school board that the policy was racist and should be changed.
Barring certain natural hairstyles, such as dreadlocks and braids, can be discriminatory,as many of those styles hold cultural and historical meaning.
Arnold, whose father is from Trinidad, started growing his dreadlocks in seventh grade as an expression of his Black and West Indian heritage, Courthouse News Service reported.
“West Indian cultural traditions specifically prohibit cutting or trimming locks and locks will unravel if they are cut,” Christina Beeler, a staff attorney at the University of Houston Law Center’s Juvenile and Children’s Advocacy Project, told the Barbers Hill Independent School District’s board last month.
Despite her argument, and outrage over the school policy, the board voted in July to keep it in place. The superintendent didn’t immediately return a request for comment from Insider.
The story of a small Texas town digging its feet into a policy over how young men wear their hair has drawn celebrity attention.
Earlier this year, Ellen Degeneres and Alicia Keys surprised Arnold with a $20,000 scholarship on “The Ellen Show.”
He also attended the Oscars as a guest of the producers and director of “Hair Love,” an animated short film about a Black father doing his daughter’s hair.
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