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The parents of two Texas students have sued a school district after they were suspended for wearing their hair in dreadlocks.
The mothers of 18-year-old DeAndre Arnold and a minor identified in court documents as K.B. have asked a judge to order the school district to rescind its policy forbidding male students from having hair that falls "below the eyebrows, or below the ear lobes."
DeAndre was even told he couldn't walk in his high school graduation ceremony unless he cut his hair.
The lawsuit alleges that the hair policy was discriminatory because their white classmates didn't have to make the same choice between their culturally meaningful hairstyles and their education.
Two mothers have sued a Texas school district after their children were suspended for wearing their hair in dreadlocks, one of whom was even told he couldn't walk in his graduation ceremony unless he cut his hair.
DeAndre Arnold, 18, made national headlines over the controversy earlier this year. He defended his hairstyle, saying the locs were a way to honor his family's Trinidadian culture.
According to the lawsuit, DeAndre's 16-year-old cousin, who is identified in court documents as K.B., was also continually monitored, reprimanded, and given an in-school suspension over his dreadlocks. The lawsuit alleges that DeAndre and K.B. suffered racial and gender discrimination due to the school district's rules, which violated the students' constitutional rights.
"These grooming policies ultimately present Black students with an unfair choice: either wear their hair in natural formations and be deprived of adequate educational resources or conform their hair to predominant Eurocentric hair aesthetics to receive the same educational opportunities as their white peers," the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said that both boys ultimately withdrew from the school and enrolled in a new high school "to avoid further discrimination and disruption to their education, causing significant trauma and turmoil to their emotional health and development."
Representatives for the school district did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. The superintendent, Greg Poole, has previously defended the dress code and said the policy was about limiting the length of male students' hair — not about barring a particular hairstyle.
But as Insider's Kelly McLaughlin reported, barring certain natural hairstyles, such as dreadlocks and braids, can be discriminatory, as many of those styles hold cultural and historical meaning. Rules forbidding such styles have the effect of upholding Caucasian standards of appearances and vilifying styles that fall outside those parameters.
The lawsuit alleges that DeAndre and K.B. tried to follow the rules — but the school district kept changing them
The school district's 2019-2020 handbook declares that "male students' hair will not extend, at any time, below the eyebrows, or below the ear lobes."
The policy also dictates that 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."
But according to the lawsuit, that rule was the latest of several different variations the school district made, even as DeAndre and K.B. tried to follow each new version of the rules.
For instance, during the 2016-2017 school year, the rules didn't permit male students' hair to extend past their eyebrows, according to the lawsuit. When DeAndre's locs grew long enough to extend past his eyebrows, he started pinning them back with "discrete hair accessories."
Then, before the 2017-2018 school year started, the school district added a new rule forbidding male students from wearing hair accessories. In 2019, the school district changed the rules again, stating that male students' hair couldn't have long hair at all, even if it was gathered up or tied back, the lawsuit said.
"DeAndre and K.B. continually complied with the changing iterations of BHISD's hair policy. Yet, BHISD administrators routinely removed DeAndre and KB from class and disrupted other school activities to check their hair and reprimand them for anticipated non-compliance with the school's hair policy," the lawsuit said.
DeAndre and K.B.'s mothers sought an unspecified amount of damages in the lawsuit, and have demanded that a judge order the school district to rescind the policy.
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