This article was updated on Jan. 30, 2020, to reflect celebrity support for DeAndre.
A Black Texas teen – whose parents said he is an A and B student – may be stopped from attending his high school graduation because of his locs. DeAndre Arnold, 18, was sent to in-school suspension after Christmas break and told his locs were a violation of Barbers Hill Independent School District’s (ISD) dress code, Essence reported.
De’Andre has attended school in the Mont Belvieu district his entire life, according to Isiah Factor Uncensored. He has been growing his locs since he was in middle school and has never been chastised about them by the district before, the family told Isiah Carey on his namesake show.
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“It’s nothing new at all. I’ve had it since seventh grade, started growing it seventh grade summer and from there we’ve just been growing,” De’Andre said. That changed last year before winter break when the principal at Barbers Hill High School told De’Andre’s mom, Sandy, his hair wasn’t supposed to touch his eyes, ears or collar as it violated the dress code.
When Sandy replied, “It never has, it’s always up,” she said she was told when her son’s hair is “uncumbered” it touches his eyes, ears and collar. DeAndre is of Trinidadian descent so locs hold a special meaning in his culture. “I really like that part of Trinidadian culture so I really embrace that,” De’Andre said.
When news spread across the country that the school board was unwilling to consider whether its dress code policy unfairly targets Black students, Ellen DeGeneres invited DeAndre to her show.
“Are there girls at your school? And do the girls have long hair?” she asked.
“There’s plenty of girls at my school with long hair,” DeAndre told her. “If girls can have long hair why can’t I have long hair.”
Then Alicia Keys surprised the 18-year-old, coming out on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and presenting DeAndre with a check for $20,000 from Shutterfly to help him fulfill his dream of becoming a vet.
“I’m super proud of you for standing up for what you know is right,” Keys told DeAndre. “And I know that the school needs to do the right thing. You’re destined already for greatness.”
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“I have done everything possible to try to appease them,” DeAndre’s mom Sandy said in an earlier report. “They said that you cannot get around the dress code by putting it up, so we’re at a standstill. … The only thing left to do is to cut his hair, which is a part of his heritage [and] culture. His dad is Trinidadian. That’s who he is. How can I put him in a barber chair and just say, ‘Okay DeAndre in order for you to graduate I need to cut your hair?’”
De’Andre’s supporters have accused officials in the predominately white school district of being racially insensitive with the policy. However, the district’s superintendent, Greg Poole, denies the policy is racially motivated.
“We’ve had this policy since the inception of our district 90 years ago. This is the first instance of any accusation that our dress code is biased,” Poole told ABC News.
DeAndre’s cousin, 16-year-old Kaden Bradford, is facing similar disciplinary action by the school board if he doesn’t cut his locs also. Both boys’ parents are prepared to take the case to court if necessary.
With graduation only three months away, reprieve may not come soon enough for De’Andre. Poole said the length of the boys’ hair, not the locs themselves, is the problem.
“We allow dreadlocks and extensions,” Poole said. “We have a dress code on hair length that is uniformly applied to all students of all races. We have a legal right to that expectation. … There is no injustice being done.”
Activists disagree. They say Barbers Hill ISD is the latest occurrence in a long line of instances of discrimination against Black hair.
“This is not an issue about dress code. He is not dressing to come to school, he is existing in a Black body. and any attack on the way that he looks and presents just as he was gifted to us in this world is an attack on his culture and his race and his body,” one supporter said.