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Judge rules Barbers Hill ISD’s dress code discriminatory after 2 Black students suspended over length of dreadlocks

Barbers Hill ISD Student Hair Controversy
Barbers Hill ISD Student Hair Controversy

HOUSTON – After three days of consideration, a judge ruled Monday night that the Barbers Hill Independent School District’s dress code is discriminatory after two Black students were suspended over the length of their dreadlocks.

A U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of Texas made the ruling Monday night.

According to court records, “The Court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion over the three days spanning July 22, 2020, through July 24, 2020. After careful consideration of the parties’ written submissions, the extensive evidentiary record developed at the hearing, and the other filings in the case, K.B.‘s motion is granted.”

The lawsuit was filed after Deandre Arnold, a former Barbers Hill High School student, was suspended his senior year over the length of his hair. Arnold, his mother and other family members, filed the lawsuit against the district, alleging the following causes of action: intentional race discrimination, intentional race discrimination, sex discrimination, retaliation in violation of the First Amendment and several other violations under the U.S. Constitutional Amendment.

How the dreadlock controversy began

Barbers Hill ISD revised its dress code policy over winter break. Arnold, a senior in the class of 2020, who is described as an A and B student, was sent to in-school suspension and told he could not walk at graduation until his dreadlocks were cut short to meet the new dress code. Arnold took a stand and refused to cut his dreads due to his Trinidadian background.

Members of the Black Lives Matter organization along with Arnold’s parents and several activists attended a school board meeting to voice their displeasure with the revised dress code, but the board members chose not to bring the topic up for discussion during the meeting.

Barbers Hill ISD released a written statement at the time:

“We do have a community supported hair length policy & have had for decades. Barbers Hill is a state leader with high expectations in all areas!”

Arnold’s mother Sandy Arnold chose to withdraw her son from the school district in his final semester of high school due to the response from the school district.

As the controversy brewed, more Barbers Hill High School students and their parents gathered to show support, saying Arnold was not the only one being targeted by the dress code. Other male students said the district’s policy is biased against boys. Many students said the district didn’t start cracking down on the dress code until after the Christmas break — for one main reason.

“Once we first got on the news with Deandre (Arnold) then it just started becoming a problem,” said student Brandon Hernandez.

National support for Deandre Arnold

Deandre Arnold’s story captured national attention with many celebrities voicing their support.

Houston Texas star DeAndre Hopkins tweeted his support.

Hopkins, who also has dreadlocks, wrote, “Never cut your locks Deandre Arnold.”

Arnold was also invited to the Ellen Degeneres Show where he was presented with a check for $20,000 from singer Alicia Keys for “standing up for what is right.” Degeneres said she believed male students should be able to wear their hair as long as they wanted.

He was also invited to the Oscars in January 2020 by the creators of ‘Hair Love,’ including Matthew A. Cherry and co-producer Gabrielle Union and her NBA-star husband, Dwayne Wade.

Teachers union backs Arnold

In February, the Texas American Federation of Teachers said it was standing with Arnold saying, “We urge Barbers Hills ISD to begin immediate steps to change the dress code policy so that it is not discriminatory on any grounds.”

The group then said the district owed Arnold an apology.

Click here to read the president of Texas American Federation of Teachers Zeph Capo written statement.


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