Athletes, creatives and other celebrities are showing their support for one Texas teen who risks not walking in his graduation because of his dreadlocks.
According to NBC News, DeAndre Arnold was suspended and told he couldn’t attend his high school graduation ceremony unless he adhered to the school district’s dress code by cutting his dreadlocks.
Arnold is a senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu and he said until recently, his hair had been in compliance with school rules. His mother, Sandy Arnold confirmed that after Christmas break, three months before graduation, the Barbers Hill Independent School District changed its dress code as it pertains to hair. Now the rules say that “hair must be clean and well groomed” and not extend below the eyebrows, the ear lobes or the top of a T-shirt collar on male students, including when the hair is let down.
When DeAndre refused to cut his hair, he was given in-school suspension.
“They say that even though my hair is up and I follow all of the regulations, that if it was down, it would be out of dress code,” DeAndre said. “Not that I’m out of dress code, but if I was to take it down, I would be out of dress code, which doesn’t make any sense. I don’t take it down at school.”
Arnold, whose father is from Trinidad, said he’s worn his dreadlocks for years, similar to many of the men in his family. “I really like that part of Trinidadian culture,” he said. “So, I mean I really embrace that.”
His mom explained that because of the rule changes, DeAndre isn’t allowed in school and he can’t attend graduation until he adheres to the dress code. When questioned on whether she would cut his hair, she responded, “Absolutely not.”
“This is his belief,” she continued. “This is a part of who he is. This is his culture. This is what we believe.”
The Barbers Hill Independent School District posted a statement to their Twitter account saying they do allow dreadlocks, however, “we DO have a community supported hair length policy & have had for decades. BH is a State leader with high expectations in ALL areas!” Barbers Hill High School has had a student body that is predominantly white, according to data posted online for the 2017-18 school year by The Texas Tribune.
This isn’t the first time a teen has reached national news for wearing dreadlocks. 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.
Superintendent Greg Poole posted on the Barbers Hill Independent School District’s website, saying that it allows “any legally accepted religious or medical exemptions” to its dress code and have permitted such exemptions in the past.
“We will continue to be a child-centered district that seeks to maximize the potential of EVERY child,” he continued. “Local control is sacred to this country, and we will NOT be bullied or intimidated by outside influences.”
Mr. Poole might have a fight on his hands considering many celebs have come out in support of DeAndre and his dreadlocks. Everyone from actress Gabrielle Union to Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins supported the teen’s hair. Even filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry, who recently was nominated for an Oscar for his short movie about Black hair (“Hair Love”), came out in support of DeAndre by listing the school’s number for people to call. You can check out all the Black hair love below.
The school’s number is 281-576-2221. Let’s light up these phones until they unsuspend Deandre Arnold and let him graduate with his locs.— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) January 22, 2020
The policing, criticism, and all other forms of bullshit ass commentary about our hair... KEEP FIGHTING!!! They truly believe if you stay quiet, they've won. Don't be quiet. Do not let this stand. https://t.co/21JATafVvZ— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) January 23, 2020
S/O Deandre Arnold for looking like an intelligent Young King w/culture.— Ronald Talley (@daTalleyman) January 22, 2020
Hello @BHISD @BarbersHillSoup instead of suspending #DeandreArnold, change your policy. Your supt’s msg is weak. Don’t hide behind an inequitable policy that teaches students nothing. Everyday he misses instruction, you are impacting his future. Put Deandre back in class.— Tami Sawyer 💕💚 (@tamisawyer) January 23, 2020
Deandre Arnold. On #MLKDay (but it would be unjust on any day), controversy erupted around the #BarbersHill ISD school board in Texas suspending him and telling him he would not walk at graduation this spring unless he cuts his dreadlocks. #CrownAct @KHOU https://t.co/EytXAtPkOf— Be A King (@BerniceKing) January 22, 2020
Never cut your locks Deandre Arnold.— Deandre Hopkins (@DeAndreHopkins) January 22, 2020