Black Americans have long been subjected to hair discrimination, whether it be in corporate or school settings. For 14-year-old freshman Braxton Schafer, he has had his dreadlocks in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades while O’Gorman High School in South Dakota’s hair policy was in place. Schafer and his family stated there was never an issue until now. As the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports, the school has said Schafer will have to cut his hair in adhere to the policy or leave the school.
O’Gorman’s dress code states boys’ hair length must be above the collar. However, Braxton’s father, Derrick Schafer, said, “We don’t necessarily agree with the rule.” “We think it’s culturally biased.”
Braxton’s mother, Toni, stated to the Argus Leader that the assistant principal approached her at the school and told her he felt Braxton’s hair was too long. When Toni discussed the matter with high school principal Joan Mahoney, she was told that “the length of Braxton’s hair is the issue, not Braxton’s culture as a Black student with locs.”
“It was always cultural,” Derrick said. “We were concerned with the timing of them bringing this up because the school year had already started. When this was being discussed with us, it seemed like there were a lot of other opportunities to have that discussion.”
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Keep in mind the policy has been the same since 2018. This is the same time when Braxton would have his dreadlocks. Both parents tried to pitch alternatives to the school, including Braxton wearing his hair up in a bun. Ultimately, it was decided Braxton would transfer out of Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools after this fall semester ends.
Again from the Argus Leader:
“It’s incredibly stressful, and he feels kind of like an outsider anyways, because when you’re one of very few (Black students), and I think he might be the only one there with locs, he’s devastated, basically,” Toni said. “He wanted to stay because he likes his friends.” “When I saw (Braxton’s) face when we told him what (the administrators) said, it’s just really hard,” Toni said.
When asked about the school policy, O’Gorman Catholic Schools president Kyle Groos claimed all students must abide by the code, and “upwards of about 20 male students asked to comply.”
“Can students wear dreadlocks? Yes, they can,” Groos said. “We simply want the length of the hair to be at the collar or right above the collar. Right there is what we ask for. To be clean, neat, and well-cared for.”