A Monroe, La., high school student has been repeatedly targeted and harassed by school administrators for his Odell Beckham Jr.-inspired hairstyle, with his family alleging in a complaint that the school district retaliated against the teen by “suspending him, attempting to expel him, and barring him from participation on the Neville High School football team.”
Jaylon Sewell, 16, is the manager of his school’s football team and decided to pay homage to the standout wide receiver for the New York Giants through his hair—shaving the sides and dyeing the top of his hair blond.
However, the 16-year-old soon found himself maligned by school administration, and his family filed a formal complaint back in November with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, claiming that Jaylon was being discriminated against for his dyed hair “when white students with dyed hair were allowed to attend class,” the New York Daily News reports.
Jaylon’s family said that he and more than 20 other black students at Neville High have been targeted for other styles, too, including other colored styles, braids and dreads, and even for hair deemed “too nappy.”
The investigation into the case is ongoing.
The Daily News notes that the Monroe City Schools dress code states, “Hair styles and hair dyed outlandish colors, which cause a disruption to the educational process, shall not be allowed.”
According to the report, the situation started when Jaylon was pulled from class along with more than a dozen of his black classmates during the morning announcement. They were told that they would not be allowed to attend class until they either cut their hair or dyed it back to its natural color. The administrator, according to Jaylon, told them they “looked like thugs” and asked them if they were in gangs.
Some students, like Jaylon, were not able to reach their parents and so were not allowed to go home. In addition to being barred from class, the students were denied lunch and forced to sit in a public commons area outside school offices, the family said.
Jaylon’s mother, Bonnie Kirk, and other family members went to the school the next day with the teen and were again told that Jaylon would not be able to attend any classes unless he changed his hair. Jaylon’s mother, determined that her son was not going to miss another class, sent him in anyway, only to get more phone calls about him being removed yet again. Kirk demanded an explanation and was told by a school official that the hair color was causing a disruption in school.
“I told him Jaylon’s hair was not causing a disruption to the educational process, but he was causing a disruption to Jaylon’s educational process by denying him the right to attend classes,” Kirk said, according to the Daily News.
Kirk confronted Monroe City Schools Superintendent Brent Vidrine after seeing him in the hallway and said she was told that the teen would not get a “good job” in corporate America with his hair color.
“He asked me why would I let Jaylon dye his hair blond,” his mother said. “He told us that he won’t be able to get a good job in corporate America with his hair that color. I told him I’m not concerned with him in corporate America yet. I’m concerned with where he is now. He’s in high school, and I would rather him experiment now instead of when he does make it to corporate America.”
Jaylon was later permitted to attend class, but he and his mother say that he continues to be harassed by school officials.
Read more at the New York Daily News.