young man with short dreadlocks

Frustrated Mom Speaks Out After Being Unable To Enroll Son In School Due to Hair Policy

A mother in Houston explains that the district high school won’t enroll her son until he cuts his dreadlocks. As Desiree Bullock explained, “The boys cannot have hair past their ears. I explained to her that my son has locks in his hair, and well, she was like, ‘Well he’s going to have to cut those.”

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No extremes in hair styles

Desiree Bullock’s son, Dyree Williams. Image Credit: Desiree Bullock

Bullock said that a school guidance counselor at East Bernard High School told her about the policy. The student handbook goes into detail about the dress and hair code, which states that “Boy’s hair may not extend below the eyebrows, below the tops of the ears or below a conventional standup shirt collar, and must not be more than one-inch difference in the length of the hair on the side to the length of the hair on top.” It adds, “This includes but not limited to tall hair styles, side swept bang styles, and long hair dangling over shaved sides or shaved back of the head. This also includes mullets and mullets in the making. Braided hair or corn rows will not be allowed. No extremes in hair styles.”

So Bullock reached out to the superintendent to try to get a religious exemption. “She got back to me and she said, ‘Your religious exemption would not be granted. It could not be granted at this time,’’ Bullock said.

The email from East Bernard ISD’s superintendent, Courtney Hudgins, continued, “Assuming the children can meet the dress code requirements, as well as all necessary paperwork for enrollment, they are welcome to enroll with our district registrar. Please contact the registrar to make an appointment for enrollment. If you have any specific questions regarding the dress code, please contact the campus principal.” [1]

Read: Jada Pinkett Smith Embraces Hair Loss: ‘I‘m Going to Put Some Rhinestones in There and Make Me a Little Crown’

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It makes me — me

Bullock homeschooled her son, 17-year-old Dyree Williams. However, he runs track and hopes for a college scholarship to pursue his dream of becoming a veterinarian. But this is less likely to work out if he continues with homeschooling. “It’s 10 times harder for colleges to notice me because I’m not in school,” Williams said.

When asked what his hair means to him, he smiled. He has worn it in braids, locks, and twists his whole life and it has become part of his identity. “It makes me — me. Without my hair, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.” 

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Once you cut that hair off, you cut off your line to your ancestors, you cut off your lineage, you cut off everything,” Bullock, said. “And just it’s not an option … We don’t consider them dreadlocks because we don’t dread them we love them.”

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Hudgins stated that the school learned about this situation but added that they did not deny the student entry into their school. “East Bernard ISD has not denied enrollment to the individual involved in this situation, as no enrollment or registration documents have been filed.

Regarding this, Bullock explained that she didn’t try to enroll after she heard about the policy, which she fears violates her son’s rights. “It’s not right. My child should be able to keep his locks in his hair,” she said.  

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East Bernard ISD’s hair policy is deeply discriminatory and needs to be changed,” stated Brian Klosterboer, attorney for ACLU of Texas. “The policy contains explicit gender discrimination that recent court decisions have found to be unconstitutional and violate Title IX, and it also explicitly bans ‘braided hair or twisted rows/strands,’ which is a proxy for race discrimination and disproportionately harms Black students in the district.” [2]

Harmful” and “Outdated” Policies

This isn’t the first time the topic of hair discrimination in schools made headlines. Another school in Houston, Barbers Hill ISD, made the news in 2020 when the administration told two Black students to cut their dreadlocks or get suspended. After the case, a federal judge ruled in favor of the students and forbade the school district to enforce this section of its dress code. The same district hit the news again in 2021 when it suspended 36 male students on the first day of school for having longer hair than their policy dictates.

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Klosterboer goes on to say that East Bernard’s language in its policy is particularly starting because it explicitly prohibits styles associated with Black hair. He has been in touch with other Texas school districts to change these “harmful” and “outdated” policies. 

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“We know that wearing long hair has no effect on a student’s academic, social and extracurricular success. These policies are simply based on outdated stereotypes that are deeply harmful to students,” he said. “A lot of these are really old, since the 1960s or 70s, what people ruled as the hippy movement. But now in 2022, I think people realize people wear long hair for a variety of reasons — their culture, their LGBTQ identities.” Plus, it waste time, effort, and resources to enforce outdated rules. [3]

Keep Reading: Mother Can’t Find School For Her 9-Year-Old Son Due To His Hair

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Sources:

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  1. Mother says she can’t enroll her son in school due to hair policy at East Bernard ISD.Click 2 Houston. Brandon Walker. April 25, 2022
  2. “Texas high school policy banning braided or twisted hair has stopped a teen from attending school, his mom says.CNN. Alisha Ebrahimji. April 29, 2022
  3. “Houston-area school district won’t allow teen to enroll because his dreadlocks violate policy, mom says.” Houston Chronicle. Monique Welch. April 27, 2022
Sarah Biren
Freelance Writer
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender.
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