Barbers Hill teen returns to school after district bans on dreadlocks ruled discriminatory

MONT BELVIEU, Texas – One of two boys at the center of a hair controversy at Barbers Hill ISD returned to school for the first time since a judge ruled the district’s dress code policy was discriminatory.

“If you’re angry about it, it wouldn’t really affect me because I know what I’m doing isn’t wrong,” said Kaden Bradford.

Bradford, now a junior at Barbers Hill High School, is the cousin of now graduated Deandre Arnold.

“I feel really excited to resume my education and be reunited with all of my friends that I’ve missed over these past few months,” said Bradford.

The district suspended Bradford and Arnold because they refused to cut their dreadlocks.

Arnold, a then senior, was told he couldn’t walk at graduation.

When we talked to him back in January, Deandre said he had always followed the school dress code, until they had recently changed it.

“They say that even though my hair is up and follow the regulations, that if it was down, it would be out of dress code, not that I’m out of dress code, but if I was to take it down, I’d be out of dress code, which doesn’t make any sense,” said Deandre Arnold in January. “I don’t take it down at school.”

Their families are from Trinidad and said the dreadlocks were a representation of their heritage and culture.

They both enrolled in Sterling High School, where Deandre graduated.

The controversy garnered national attention from celebrities and athletes, including former Texans’ player DeAndre Hopkins, who has dreadlocks himself.

Arnold was even invited to the Oscars and to The Ellen Show, where he received a scholarship for $20,000.

The cousins and their mothers filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination, naming Barbers Hill ISD and Barbers Hill High School administrators.

“Honestly, me and my entire family were over the moon,” said Bradford. “We got the news late at night so we were almost asleep, but we woke right up once we found out that we won.”

On Monday, a federal judge ruled in the families’ favor, allowing dreadlocks at Barbers Hill ISD schools.

“I think it shows that no matter where you come from or what you look like, it doesn’t really matter what people want you to look like, it’s really about how you want to express yourself,” said Bradford.

The district had not responded to the court’s decision.


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