Court Rules Black Teen Suspended For His Dreadlocks Will Return To School
A Black teenager who was suspended from a Texas school because of his dreadlocks has won a court ruling, with the 16-year-old able to return to school without cutting his hair.
Kaden Bradford, 16, was confined to in-school suspension in January at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu due to his school district’s dress code, which bans male students from having hair longer than their ears or eyebrows.
His cousin Deandre Arnold was also affected by the dress code, with the senior being told he couldn’t take part in his graduation ceremony in May unless he got rid of his dreadlocks, which hold both cultural and historical significance.
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Now, a federal judge in Texas has blocked the Barbers Hill Independent School District from enforcing the dress code policy – although it’s too late for Deandre, who was unable to attend his graduation.
US District Court Judge George C. Hanks Jr. issued an injunction on Monday evening, August 17, allowing Kaden to attend school without facing suspension for his hair.
This ruling in Kaden’s favour means the teenager will no longer have to ‘endure an unjust and educationally-damaging in-school suspension simply for having uncut locs, which are an immutable part of his Black identity and cultural heritage’ according to Janai Nelson, NAACP Legal Defense Fund associate director-counsel, as per NBC News.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund represented Kaden in the request for the preliminary injunction, alongside Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
Court documents stated, as per KHOU:
Although the hair-length policy is facially race-neutral, K.B. has presented sufficient statistical and testimonial evidence that could establish… that BHISD’s hair-length policy — particularly the most recent iteration of that policy — was enacted with a racially discriminatory motive.
First, K.B. has presented statistical evidence showing that, both before and after the most recent iteration of the hair-length policy was enacted, BHISD disproportionately enforced its hair-length policy against African-American students.
Kaden and 18-year-old DeAndre made national headlines in January after their families sued the school district, alleging its policy on hair discriminates on the basis of race and sex and violates students’ right to freedom of expression.
The two teenagers had worn dreadlocks for years and had always followed the school’s dress code, which used to be that male students’ hair should be off the shoulders, above the earlobes and out of the eyes.
Both boys wore their hair in compliance with the dress code, tying it up so it was off their shoulders and out of their eyes, but the school district then changed the dress code policy.
After the Christmas holidays, DeAndre said he returned to school to find that even when his hair was tied up, ‘it would not be in compliance with the dress code’ – despite the fact he didn’t wear it down when he’s at school.
Prior to the court ruling, the school district had intended to confine Kaden to indefinite in-school suspension and exclude him from school activities unless he cut his dreadlocks.
Although the case is still ongoing, the ruling grants Kaden ‘temporary relief’ and is encouraging for the family.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk