A black teenager in Texas has been suspended and told he cannot walk in his high school graduation ceremony unless he cuts his dreadlocks to meet the school district's dress code, NBC reported.
DeAndre Arnold, a senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, about 30 miles east of Houston, told NBC affiliate KPRC his hair had been in compliance with school rules until recently, when he faced in-school suspension after he refused to cut it.
Arnold, whose father is from Trinidad, said he has worn dreadlocks for years like a lot of men in his family and always followed the school's dress code by tying them up.
"I really like that part of Trinidadian culture," he told the station. "So, I mean I really embrace that."
His mother, Sandy Arnold, told NBC that after Christmas break, three months before graduation, the Barbers Hill Independent School District changed its dress code as it refers to hair. Now the rules demand "hair must be clean and well groomed" and not extend on male students, at any time, below the eyebrows, the ear lobes or the top of a T-shirt collar — including when let down.
When asked if she would cut his hair, the teen's mom told NBC, "Absolutely not."
"This is his belief," she said. "This is a part of who he is. This is his culture. This is what we believe."
Arnold is receiving support from dreadlocked celebrities, including his namesake, Houston Texans star DeAndre Hopkins, who tweeted never cut your locks."
Gary Monroe, a local educator and activist, told The Guardian the alumni association will take Arnold's fight to federal court if the school district fails to resolve the issue.
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