An 11-year-old biracial student has received in-school suspension over a hairstyle his Texas family says is part of his culture, according to his mother.
Maddox Cozart, a student at Raymond Mays Middle School in Troy, began his two-week punishment April 5 after his hair was cut and styled into a braided knot, Hope Cozart said in a Facebook post.
His mother said Maddox has never been in trouble at school and makes good grades. In an interview with renowned student advocate Stephanie Boyce, she called the suspension “ridiculous.”
“He is mixed with Black, white and Native American. He should be able to present himself any way he wants that is not harming anyone else,” Cozart said during the Facebook Live interview. “His hair is perfectly acceptable and it has been part of the African American culture and the Native American culture for so, so, so very long.”
The school’s handbook states boys are not allowed to wear their hair in a ponytail, top knot or bun. It also states hair should not touch the eyebrows in the front, go past the ear lobe on the sides or extend more than an inch past the shirt collar.
Troy Independent School District Superintendent Neil Jeter said he could not discuss student disciplinary action, KCEN-TV reported. He said the school board could take action regarding the hair policy before the next school year.
Cozart said the school’s decision is “a racial issue.”
“I have to fight for my child now because it’s going to help fight for the children in the future,” she told Boyce.
The Cozart family has retained California-based attorney Waukeen McCoy to challenge the school rules, which he called discriminatory.
“We will not stop until these outdated dress code policies, giving arbitrary discretion to school officials, are changed to be gender and race neutral,” McCoy said in a statement to McClatchy News.
McCoy sent a letter Wednesday to Jeter and Michelle Jolliff, principal of Raymond Mays Middle School. He said the suspension “has denied Maddox an education equal to that of the other students.”
“These policies have further been enforced in a racially discriminatory manner, as non-Black male students in Troy Independent School District have not been punished for wearing their hair in a bun, as Maddox has,” McCoy said in the letter.
A Change.org petition calling for for an end to the dress code policy received more than 800 signatures as of Friday afternoon.