HOUSTON — The ACLU of Texas and ACLU national today filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Justice’s Educational Opportunities Section on behalf of two Native American male students.
The complaint was filed after two families filed internal grievances with Monahans-Wickett-Pyote ISD as their children were threatened with discipline by the public school district in Monahans, Texas, for wearing long hair as part of their heritage and beliefs. The district’s school board refused to change its discriminatory dress and grooming policies via the grievances.
“Federal law is clear that students can’t be discriminated against based on gender, race, and Native American ancestry and religious beliefs,” said Brian Klosterboer, attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “We have repeatedly urged this school district to no longer discriminate against its students and are hoping that federal civil rights oversight encourages the district to change its policies and practices for the sake of its students.”
In the complaints, the Valle and Kines families mention that despite their Native American ancestry and beliefs, MWPISD refused to grant them written exceptions to its dress and grooming code, and instead required both students to prove their Native American ancestry. When Deseree Valle complained of discrimination against her son, the MWPISD Chief of Police went to her house and told her to “drop the hair issue.”
Both families are asking that their students be allowed to wear long hair as a reflection of their Native American heritage, ancestry, beliefs, and identity without repercussion or retaliation from MWPISD, and that the district revise its dress and grooming code to no longer discriminate based on gender.
“Because of this discriminatory dress code and the MWPISD police coming to our house, my son still lives in fear that we could be arrested and he’s too afraid to report bullying at school,” Ms.Valle said.
“I cannot tell you the countless hours we’ve spent fighting such an obviously discriminatory policy these past six months,” said Rebekah Kines. “I’m deeply saddened that it’s gotten to this point. I feel we have no other choice but to keep speaking out and trying to change this district’s policies.”
The Valle and Kines families hope that MWPISD will comply and agree to the requests filed with U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Justice’s Educational Opportunities Section.