When Deandre Arnold was told his dreadlocks would prevent him from walking the stage at his high school graduation, the teen stood strong in keeping his hair at the length he desired. Thus, he faced the consequences. However, he might’ve never guessed that his convictions would lead him to major money and an invite to the Oscars.
According to CBSDFW.COM, Arnold was invited to the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony by Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade and director Matthew A. Cherry, the team behind the Oscar-nominated short movie “Hair Love“. They surprised Arnold with a video message from each of them.
“We’ve all been so inspired by your story and this is the very least we can do to thank you for standing up for yourself and for your right to wear your natural hair at school,” Cherry told Arnold in a video.
“Hair Love” tells the story of a Black father who has to style his daughter’s hair for the first time. Considering the movie explores Black hair and people’s relationship to it, it makes since that Arnold would be a go-to invite for the ceremony.
The senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas received national attention for refusing to shorten his dreadlocks in order to appease the district’s dress code policy. The rules allow dreadlocks and long hair for male students, but it cannot go below the eyebrows or ear lobes and it has to be above the top of a t-shirt collar. Arnold’s dreadlocks hit below his shoulder.
Arnold’s story is the most recent case of a Black student being reprimanded for long hair. Back in 2018, high schooler Andrew Johnson went viral when he was forced to cut his dreadlocks for a wrestling match and the whole incident was caught on video. The clip caused a wave of backlash and further discussion on institutions’ anti-Black hair policies.
Now, it seems like more celebrities are shining light on the issue. Earlier this week, Arnold appeared on “The Ellen Show” where Alicia Keys and Ellen DeGeneres gifted him with a $20,000 scholarship. He told DeGeneres that he wants to attend college to be a veterinarian because “I’ve always loved animals, everything about animals … their sense of loyalty, their companionship, you can’t get that anywhere else.” Degeneres also made a plea to the school on camera, urging them to change their policy.
According to ABC News, until Deandre cuts his hair, he was given the option of an in-school suspension (ISS), which usually means he would be removed from class but remain on the campus to continue school work. He was also given the option of an alternative school, according to his mother. Either option would let Deandre graduate in a few months, but he wouldn’t be able to walk with his classmates during graduation.
The 18-year-old has been home for weeks now with his mom, saying it’s not fair for him to go to ISS when he didn’t do anything wrong. Deandre’s cousin, 16-year-old Kaden Bradford, also goes to the same school and he was told he couldn’t return to school unless his dreadlocks were cut as well, according to his mother.
Meanwhile, the school seems to remain adamant about upholding its policy. Last Wednesday, they tweeted out:
“BH has received scrutiny regarding our high level of expectations on all things & dress code. Yet our African American students beat the state average on passing STAR by 22% & our overall passing scores are the highest in the state. Sounds like high expectations work!”
Again, “high expectations” that are anti-Black? Not the move.