HOUSTON – In a public meeting Monday afternoon, the Barbers Hill ISD (BHISD) Board of Trustees unanimously voted to deny grievances filed by the ACLU of Texas and the Juvenile and Children’s Advocacy Project of Texas (JCAP). The grievances challenged the district’s hair policy as unconstitutional and discriminatory.
“This is a disappointing setback in the families’ quest to change Barbers Hill ISD’s policies that explicitly discriminate on the basis of race and sex. It is evident that this policy discriminates against and harms Black students,” said Brian Klosterboer, attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “The school district had the chance to examine systemic racism and change its discriminatory policies, but instead chose to continue spending taxpayer dollars to maintain this grooming code.”
The online meeting was held in response to grievances filed on behalf of Kaden Bradford and De’Andre Arnold, two students suspended in January for wearing their natural Black hair. The ACLU of Texas and JCAP asked BHISD to change its grooming policy and allow Kaden to return to Barbers Hill without being forced to cut his locs. The school board was also presented with over 200 pages of photos of white male students who were seemingly allowed to wear long hair in their official yearbook photos, during graduation, and while participating in extracurricular activities.
“The Board’s decision is very disappointing. De’Andre and Kaden have both been forced to choose between their right to an education and their identities as young Black men with locs,” said Christina Beeler, staff attorney for JCAP. “The Board had an opportunity to be on the right side of history by changing their policy in response to the extensive evidence we provided, but they chose not to do so. Hopefully it will serve as a warning to other school districts as they consider how their dress codes can be more inclusive.”
BHISD’s school board denied the grievances immediately after the arguments concluded without asking any questions or engaging in discussion. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP are representing the Bradford and Arnold families in a lawsuit with a hearing set for Wednesday.