ACLU of Texas urges school districts to reexamine 'discriminatory' dress code policies

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Wednesday, September 2, 2020
After 2 Black students were suspended, court rules hair policy is discriminatory
If you recall, a teen was entangled with his high school over his dreadlocks. The back-and-forth has since inspired legislation.

MONT BELVIEU, Texas (KTRK) -- The ACLU of Texas sent a letter to hundreds of school districts across the state demanding them to "reexamine dress and grooming code policies that are unconstitutional and discriminatory," according to the group.

The move comes weeks after a judge ruled the hair policy at a school district in Mont Belvieu is discriminatory to two Black students who were suspended earlier in the year over the length of their dreadlocks.

The decision came from a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

READ MORE: After 2 Black students were suspended, court rules hair policy is discriminatory

"While school districts throughout the county have removed policies that were based on antiquated sex stereotypes, many school districts in Texas still have policies that treat students differently on the basis of their gender, such as requiring different hair and dress standards for male and female students," said Brian Klosterboer, the attorney for the ACLU of Texas. "Recent court decisions, including from the U.S. Supreme Court, have found that this type of gender-based discrimination is unconstitutional. School districts need to conform to federal law and fix outdated policies that cause serious harm to students in Texas."

The policy at the Mont Belvieu school was at the center of controversy after Barbers Hill High School student DeAndre Arnold was suspended for his hair style in January 2020, with district officials saying it wasn't about race, and that dreadlocks are allowed, just not at his length.

"There is no dress code policy that prohibits any cornrow or any other method of wearing of the hair," superintendent Greg Poole said at the time. "Our policy limits the length. It's been that way for 30 years."

Arnold wasn't allowed to return to school or attend his graduation ceremony unless he cut his hair, his family said.

Arnold, who was a senior at the school, had dreadlocks for years and said it was part of his identity and culture. Arnold's family is from Trinidad, and he said the men in his family often grow their dreadlocks to below their waist.

The ACLU of Texas said his cousin Kaden Bradford was in the middle of his sophomore year when the dress and grooming policy was revised to prohibit male students from wearing long hair. Bradford was also suspended by school officials and enrolled in a different school.

Both students filed grievances on Jan. 27, followed by a lawsuit, contending that the policy was not fairly enforced against them.

The letters were sent to 477 school districts in Texas.

The organization is asking school districts to revise their dress and grooming polices to ensure that all students are treated fairly and equally, and that they do not face discrimination.


In the previous video above, DeAndre Arnold talked to ABC13's Chauncy Glover about his journey.