Schafer’s parents, Derrick and Toni Schafer say their son, who is Black, has locs that touch his shoulders and doesn’t want to cut them.
On Friday, the O’Gorman High administration notified the Schafer family about Braxton’s hair not heeding the school’s policy concerning length. Toni says her son’s hairstyle is personal to him and where he comes from.
“Strength, pride and part of him, a piece of him that we won’t understand, that most people in South Dakota don’t understand,” Toni said.
“Ultimately, we wanted it to be his decision,” Derrick said. “Your choices are to cut your hair if you want to stay, or if you don’t want to cut your hair, we’re going to have to go, and he said he loves the school, he loves the kids, but he doesn’t want to cut his hair.”
Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools President Kyle Groos told KCAU 9 Sioux City that he would love to have Braxton remain a student and praise the freshman.
“We would love to have Braxton in our school, without a doubt,” Groos said. “He’s a great young man.”
O’Gorman High School’s dress code states that boys’ hair can’t touch their collars but the administration will decide if changes should the dress code policy should be made in the next semester.
“That is what our dress code is at this moment,” Groos said. “Could that change? When we review it here in the spring of 2023 and into the fall there, it might. I don’t know at this moment. But that’s a part, it’s an important part of who we are.”
Groos explained that the issue is not the hairstyle but the length.
“Locs and dreadlocks, the style is not the issue,” Groos said. “Length: it’s all it’s ever been.”
Braxton’s mom wants the school to understand that the length of his hair has many cultural meanings tied to it.
“In order to make a crown for strength, power, spirituality, it’s in the length and making yourself a crown,” Toni said.
Groos says a dress code is implemented for students to focus on their spiritual journeys and academia.
“From our perspective and why people invest in our Catholic education, and what they’re seeking for is the structure and discipline that provides,” Groos said. “It also then allows us to let our students focus on their faith, their service to others, their academics, and their own friendships.”
Braxton attended connected Catholic schools during his student career. He previously was a student at St. Mary’s Elementary School for sixth grade and O’Gorman Junior High for his seventh and eighth grade school years.
Derrick and Toni say they never had a complaint about his hair before and that his hair was the same length then as it is now.
“People are looking at it as, it’s just hair; cut it,” Toni said. “They’re the ones that need to look in the mirror at themselves.”
Braxton will be allowed to stay at O’Gorman this semester and has not decided where to go to school next.