A Chambers County family says their son’s dreadlocks are a part of his Trinidad culture, and they have no plans to get him a haircut.
They also say Barbers Hill ISD officials have informed them if their son refuses to cut his dreadlocks, he will not be able to walk in the graduation ceremony.
Deandre Arnold, a senior at Barbers Hill High School, whose family is from Trinidad, is at the center of the issue. Deandre’s parents said he has grown dreadlocks ever since he was in the seventh grade.
Currently, Deandre has been assigned to in-school suspension, meaning he can go to a class reserved for disobedient students.
“He is not going to ISS because he has not done anything wrong,” his father David Arnold said.
Deandre has missed six days of school so far.
“Dreadlocks do not grow overnight,” David Arnold, said. “It takes a little bit of time to get to any type of length. They want him to cut 5-inches of it off to get into code. It is like putting a football helmet on his head, whacking the front of it off, cutting the back 5- to 6-inches and shaving the sides. You might as well cut it all off, which is not an option. So, that is where we are at with this.”
David Arnold said Barbers Hill officials have told them they will not allow Deandre back in school unless he is in compliance with the dress code.
Before a change to the dress code in December, Deandre attended class with his hair pulled up into a ponytail so that it would not touch his ears or collar.
Now, that ponytail exception no longer applies.
David Arnold said Barbers Hill created a task force to address the hair issue since he and his family had fought for it to say it was OK to wear at least rubber bands and such to make hair compliant with code.
“They rolled this out at the last board meeting (in December) so, when kids came back in January, they have to adhere to this,” David Arnold said. “We asked for a copy, and they didn’t give us a copy. But, we were able to get a copy and compared it to see what the changes were, and it was just that little wording they had changed.”
Desiree Stanislas, an adult cousin of Deandre, said changing that part of the code benefits all boys, not just Deandre.
“We’ve seen some on the basketball and tennis team that have long hair,” she said. “So, we are trying to figure out why it is OK for some kids but not for others.”
David Arnold said the issue is not over religion or race.
“It is just part of the culture,” he said. “They try to make a big deal about it. We are not trying to claim it is part of the religion. Some are trying to make it a black and white issue. That is not what DeAndra wants this issue to become. He doesn’t want people on his side because of black and white issues. He is an A and B grade student that is taking advanced and dual credit classes. But his hair is holding him back.”
Jami Navarre, Barbers Hill spokeswoman, said there is no truth to the idea that Deandre cannot graduate at all — an allegation made on a Houston TV news report.
“There has been more information than usual, and the following are pertinent facts,” Navarre said. “We do allow dreadlocks. We do not allow hair to exceed what is prescribed in the dress code. The parent has chosen to keep the child at home. He did not attend school last week of his own choice.”