On Monday evening, a Texas federal judge ruled in favor of a Black teenager who was told he had to cut his hair or he couldn’t attend school.
According to NBC News, a preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Court Judge George C. Hanks Jr. will allow 16-year-old Kaden Bradford to attend Barbers Hill School without facing suspension for his locs. In January, both Kaden and his older cousin DeAndre Arnold were told by the school that they would have to cut their hair or they wouldn’t be able to attend classes. Arnold graduated in May but was not allowed to walk because he refused to cut his hair. The Barbers Hill Independent School District intended to keep Bradford indefinitely placed in in-school suspension, which would have prevented him from participating in school activities.
Bradford’s family filed a lawsuit against the school in May of this year, believing the school’s dress code to be racist. In July, the board of trustees for the school district voted unanimously not to change the dress code.
From NBC News:
Officials in the majority-white Barbers Hill district, which has nearly 5,400 students, have said that the high school allows dreadlocks, also called locs, but has “a community-supported policy” governing the length of male students’ hair.
The district dress code states male students cannot have their hair “gathered or worn in a style that would allow the hair to extend below” the collar, earlobes and eyes when let down.
Kaden’s mother, Cindy Bradford, has said her son, like DeAndre, has worn locs for years. Last year, Kaden would wear a headband to keep his locs off his shoulders, his mother said. The school told her that if Kaden kept his locs pulled back, he would not be in violation of its hair policy, she said.
But the policy changed in December 2019, midway through Kaden’s sophomore year, to restrict the length of hair when it was let down.
“Today’s momentous decision enjoining enforcement of BHISD’s discriminatory dress and grooming policy makes a huge difference for our client, who may now return to class and extracurricular activities after being unfairly deprived of an equal education for many months,” Janai Nelson, associate director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said in a statement sent to The Root. The LDF represented Bradford’s family along with legal firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, who worked pro bono.
The ruling found that Kaden “has shown a substantial likelihood that his rights under the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment will be violated if his motion for a preliminary injunction is denied, and he has additionally shown that he will receive either inferior instruction or no instruction if his motion is denied.” A final ruling on the federal complaint is still being awaited following the preliminary injunction.
“We are pleased with the court’s decision, as it means that K.B. is no longer being deprived of an equal education simply for existing as his full self,” Mahogane Reed, an LDF Fellow, said in a statement. “It is especially critical that we do not close the schoolhouse door to children of color, who already endure countless hurdles in their quest to get an education because their physical appearance does not meet some arbitrary standard of acceptability.”