MONT BELVIEU, TX — Barbers Hill Independent School District received national attention in January of this year after they suspended a black student and advised he would not walk at graduation unless he cut his dreadlocks. Last Monday, the school board voted unanimously to uphold the rule.
According to CBS News, during the meeting district officials voted to dismiss the grievances filed by the ACLU on behalf of Kaden Bradford and De'Andre Arnold, who are related. Both students faced suspension after they refused to comply with the dress code rule that required them to cut their dreads.
Bradford was a sophomore in the district and had worn his hair in dreads for years without complaint from the school. In December of 2019, the school changed its policy to “prevent hair that extended past a male student's earlobes even if it was gathered at the top of his head,” the ACLU claimed in its grievance.
According to the grievance Bradford was confronted multiple times about his hair until he was suspended at the end of January. He transferred to another school one week after his suspension.
"Importantly, Kaden also knows no one at his new school while his entire friend group from pre-K through sophomore year remains at Barbers Hill," stated the grievance. "Kaden, therefore, seeks to return to BHISD immediately, as long as he is permitted to receive regular classroom instruction and participate in extracurricular activities without being forced to cut his natural Black hair."
Arnold, who is Bradford’s cousin, was also suspended in January. As a senior, he was advised he would not be able to participate in the commencement ceremonies unless he cut his hair.
“We're here for DeAndre, but it's about more than that," said his mother, Sandy Arnold. "This is about all the other De’Andres that could come through Barbers Hill."
After Arnold's suspension went viral, he was invited to the "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" where he received $20,000 for his college tuition. He was also invited to the Oscars and received a shoutout from football legend DeAndre Hopkins.
Superintendent Greg Poole stated back in January that the decision to suspend Arnold had nothing to do with race.
"There is no dress code policy that prohibits any cornrow or any other method of wearing of the hair," he said. "Our policy limits the length. It's been that way for 30 years."
According to the ACLU, the district “denied the grievances immediately after the arguments concluded without asking any questions or engaging in discussion.”
The ACLU claimed that the policy “discriminates against and harms Black students.”
“The school district had the chance to examine systemic racism and change its discriminatory policies,” said Brian Klosterboer, an attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “But instead chose to continue spending taxpayer dollars to maintain this grooming code.”
During the meeting, an attorney representing the district claimed that the grooming policy was not discriminatory and that the two students wanted to attend the school because it “high standards.”
"They want the standards without having to meet the standards. They want to be treated differently. They're saying, 'We want the academic excellence, we want the excellence of Barbers Hill. But we don't want to comply with what it takes to achieve that,'" he said.