This week, Judge George C. Hanks Jr issued a preliminary injunction in the so-called “Texas Dreadlocks Case.” This will allow student Kaden Bradford to start the school year with his hair as-is — in dreadlocks — without facing an in-school suspension.
Prior to the court’s injunction, NBC reports that the Barber Hills Independent School District was going to confine Bradford to an indefinite in-school suspension. Under the in-school suspension, Bradford would be excluded from all school activities, including the band program he participated in previously.
The Back Story
The Barber Hills ISD, located in Mont Belvieu, Texas, attempted to maintain its dress code policy concerning long hair. Due to the rule, two Black students, cousins DeAndre Arnold and Bradford (pictured above), were told to cut their dreadlocks if they wanted to return to classes back in January.
The rule blocks boys from having hair that extends “below the top of a t-shirt collar, below the eyebrows, or below the ear lobes when let down.” The cousins tied their hair up in order to comply with the dress code, however, they were told it was still non-compliant.
The boys refused to cut their hair and faced suspension. Not much later, their story sparked national attention. When Arnold, a senior at the time, was told he couldn’t attend prom or graduation at Mont Belvieu High School, he went to the Oscars instead. He even walked the red carpet and stood on stage with the team behind Oscar-winning animated short Hair Love.
A Long Legal Battle
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the Juvenile and Children’s Advocacy Project of Texas filed a grievance against the Barber Hills ISD on behalf of the cousins. The boys had transferred to another school, but they hoped the district would change the rule so Bradford could come back to be with friends, VICE reports.
According to a news release, ACLU and JCAP attorneys offered trustees “over 200 pages of photos of white male students who were similarly allowed to wear long hair” during school activities, from yearbook photos to extracurriculars.
However, the board voted unanimously to keep the dress code as is. An attorney for the district, Hans Graff, emphasized that the rule wasn’t discriminatory, but a matter of maintaining “high standards” for the district.
During the hearing, Graff said, “[The boys] want the standards without having to meet the standards. They want to be treated differently. They’re saying, ‘We want the academic excellence, we want the excellence of Barbers Hill. But we don’t want to comply with what it takes to achieve that.”
“By refusing to understand the cultural implications that Black hair stands for and in not valuing DeAndre and Kaden for their unique heritage and identities, the current hair policy and its enforcement say to DeAndre, Kaden and other students like them that they are not welcome here,” said Christina Beeler, a staff attorney with the JCAP at the University of Houston Law Center, Houston Public Media reports.
Judge Hanks Jr.’s preliminary injunction comes before a final ruling on the federal complaint.
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