Texas high school student DeAndre Arnold has learned that he would have to cut his locs to be allowed to walk across the stage at his upcoming graduation.
The Black high school senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas, wears his hair in locs, a hairstyle rooted in Black culture, history, tradition and sometimes religion.
But the Barbers Hill Independent School District insists that Arnold, who told KPRC-TV in Houston that he wears his locs proudly as a nod to his Trinidadian heritage, is not in compliance with the school’s dress code on hair length.
The teen, who said he has been growing his hair in locs since he was in the seventh grade, was apparently recently placed on in-school suspension due to his hair, the local news station reported.
Arnold and his mother, Sandy Arnold, argued that he has remained in compliance with the dress code, which calls for male students’ hair to remain off the shoulders and above the earlobes.
The student told KPRC that he has worn his hair pinned up to school to remain in compliance. But Arnold’s family claims that the school district revised its policy over the holidays to include more restrictions on hair length.
“They say that even though my hair is up, and off of all the regulations, that if it was down it would be out of dress code,” Arnold told the news station.
The Barbers Hill ISD hair policy that appears on its website states that male students’ hair should 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,” the policy continues.
The Barbers Hill ISD has not responded to requests for comment. The school district pointed The Hill to its policy on student confidentiality when asked about Arnold’s reported suspension.
The Twitter account for the Barbers Hill ISD superintendent, Gregory Poole, tweeted on Sunday that the district has had a “community supported hair length policy” for decades.
″[Barbers Hill] Is a State leader with high expectations in ALL areas!” the tweet said.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Arnold and his parents, Sandy Arnold and David Arnold, were joined by activists and community members who addressed their concerns about the district’s hair policy and hair discrimination at a Barbers Hill ISD school board meeting.
Ashton P. Woods, a Black Lives Matter activist in Houston, said outside of the meeting on Monday that the “dress code is designed by white people, for white people... that is damaging to Black bodies,” KHOU-TV in Houston reported.
Black students make up about 3.1% of the school district’s population.
Arnold told KHOU that he’s not cutting his hair because he’s “willing to take a stand.”
Sandy Arnold, who has called the district’s policy “sexist,” told KPRC that she does not want her son to cut his hair because “this is his culture.”
“This is a part of who he is,” she added.
Arnold has received wide support on Twitter, including from Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who also wears his hair in locs.
“Never cut your locks Deandre Arnold,” he tweeted on Wednesday.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called the ordeal an example of “hair discrimination” in a Twitter post on Thursday. In July, Newsom signed into law the CROWN Act, which made California the first state to protect Black people from hair discrimination.
On Wednesday, Gabrielle Union encouraged Arnold to “KEEP FIGHTING!!!”
In November, reports emerged that Union had complained about a culture of racism on the set of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” prior to her ouster as a judge on the show. Among the allegations were claims that Union was told her hairstyles were “too Black” for “AGT.”
“They truly believe if you stay quiet, they’ve won,” the actor tweeted about Arnold’s story on Wednesday. “Don’t be quiet. Do not let this stand.”