Texas high school student told to cut dreadlocks in order to walk at graduation

MONT BELVIEU, Texas (KPRC/CNN) - A Texas high school student is set to graduate in a few months, but after receiving in-school suspension due to the length of his dreadlocks, he was told to cut his hair, or he won’t be able to walk at the ceremony.

Deandre Arnold, a senior at Barbers Hill High School, says he has embraced his family's Trinidadian culture with his dreadlocks, but the district wants them cut. (Source: KPRC/CNN)

Mother Sandy Arnold says her son Deandre Arnold has always been a good student, but lately, the Barbers Hill High School senior’s hair has been a problem, one that sent him to in-school suspension.

“An A-B student, he has duel credit classes that he’s taking. He’s not a problem,” Sandy Arnold said. “This is a part of who he is, our beliefs.”

Deandre Arnold’s family is from Trinidad, and he says a lot of men in his culture grow their dreadlocks. He has embraced that part of the culture.

His mother says the teenager has had dreadlocks for years and always followed the school’s dress code, keeping his hair off his shoulders, above his earlobes and out of his eyes.

But after Christmas break and just three months before graduation, the Arnolds say the district changed its policy.

"They say that even though my hair is up and off of all the regulations that if it was down, it would be out of dress code, not that I’m out of dress code, but if I was to take it down, I would be out of dress code. That doesn’t make any sense,” Deandre Arnold said.

The teenager says he never takes his hair down at school, but he isn’t allowed back until his dreadlocks are cut. If he doesn’t comply, he also won’t be able to walk in his upcoming graduation ceremony.

“This is his belief. This is a part of who he is. This is his culture... so absolutely not. I’m not going to cut his hair,” Sandy Arnold said.

At Monday night’s Barbers Hill Independent School District board meeting, Deandre Arnold’s family and several activists expressed their discontent with the revised dress code policy.

“Let’s stop with the dress code. This is not about dress code. This is about policing black boys,” one activist said.

Deandre Arnold’s father, David Arnold, told the board the continuous punishment of his son is a form of bullying.

“I won’t stand for anybody bullying my child. He has rights. All he wants to do is graduate,” David Arnold said.

The board ultimately chose not to place the topic on the upcoming agenda for further discussion. Earlier, the district tweeted a statement, saying it allows dreadlocks, but the length is an issue.

“Barbers Hill does allow dreadlocks. However, we do have a community-supported hair length policy and have had for decades. Barbers Hill is a state leader with high expectations in all areas,” the statement read.

Houston Texans’ star DeAndre Hopkins, who also has dreadlocks, tweeted support Wednesday for the high school student.

“Never cut your locks Deandre Arnold,” he said.

Copyright 2020 KPRC, Family photos via CNN. All rights reserved.