School District Won't Let This 4-Year-Old Attend Pre-K Until He Cuts His Hair

by Maria Guido
Originally Published: 
Image via Jessica Oates

School District forbids 4-year-old with long hair from attending school

Four-year-old Jabez Oates started pre-k last Thursday. His mother, Jessica Oates, says her son had been looking forward to the occasion for weeks. But on Friday, administrators at Barbers Hill Independent Kindergarten Center in Houston informed Oates that her son would not be allowed to return until he cut his hair.

“He was enthralled to start school. He asked me about it every day for a week before he started,” Oates tells Scary Mommy. “It’s just sad.”

Image via Jessica Oates

Oates says the student handbook states that there are exemptions to the long hair rule for cultural and religious reasons, and that she could furnish them by the 21st. On the 19th, Oates claims the school board contacted her and told her they “did not know of or recognize any cultures or religions that let little boys have long hair.” Oates is part Native American, so she was going to use that to apply for a cultural exemption. The district’s student dress code states, “The district’s dress code is established to set the standard of excellence, set our students apart from others, teach grooming/hygiene, prevent disruption, and minimize safety hazards.”

The dress code for pre-k through fifth graders in this district is enough to make your head spin. “Bare shoulders, bare backs, bare midriffs, and low necklines are unacceptable,” it reads. Lets remember we’re talking about 4-year-olds to 9-year-olds here. “Female shirts, blouses and other types of tops must be worn in good taste. The design of the top should preserve modesty. Low cut necklines are unacceptable.” Again, this is the pre-k to fifth grade dress code. Yup. We really need to preserve modesty in our four-year-olds. “No spaghetti straps or strapless tops will be allowed. Tank top straps must measure at least 2 inches in width.”

And for the hair: “Boy’s hair will not extend below the eyebrows, below the ear lobes, or below the top of a t-shirt collar. Corn rows and/or dread locks are permitted if they meet the aforementioned lengths. Ponytails or tails are not acceptable on male students.”

Jabez has gorgeous long locks he’s been growing since birth. “He likes his hair. He doesn’t want to cut his hair,” Oates told the Huffington Post. “It’s just part of who he is.” She’s started a petition to get the district to reconsider their stance.

“He’s confused as to why he can’t go see his teacher or friends,” Oates tells Scary Mommy. “He’s been acting fairly… different since that day. He’s very observant and you can tell it made somewhat of an impact.”

Image via Jessica Oates

“Barbers Hill is one of the premier districts in the state by any measure, and our student enrollment has grown for each of the past 30 years,”Dr. Greg Poole, Barbers Hill ISD superintendent told HuffPost in a statement. “Much of this growth has been fueled by those who are seeking a rigorous educational environment of high expectations for their children. Parents have a right to seek an appropriate educational setting for their child, just as Ms. Oates has the right to place her child in a district that reflects her personal expectations for standards of appearance.”

Yeah. It’s super easy for a parent to move. This is ridiculous.

Their dress code for pre-k to fifth graders is over-the-top, but this isn’t about a shirt, or a certain pair of pants the school doesn’t particularly like. This is an actual aspect of his appearance. Children should not be forced to modify their bodies to comply to archaic standards of appearance. Oates’ son is still not in school because of this. Exactly who is being hurt by this child’s long hair? And why are we strong-arming parents into literally changing the appearance of their children to prove they deserve to be educated?

As for Oates, she’s not budging either. “I will cut his hair the day he asks me to get his hair cut.”

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