School dress codes that prohibit certain hairstyles aren’t doing anything good for students
Texas student DeAndre Arnold hasn’t been able to attend his classes for the last few days. He may not be able to go to his senior prom. He’s been told that he might not be allowed to walk across the stage at his graduation in a few months. The problem? His dreadlocks, which he’s been growing for years.
Arnold’s father is from Trinidad, where growing long dreadlocks is a common part of the culture. So that’s what Arnold has been doing. At the start of his winter term, though, he was told that his hair violates his high school’s dress code. It’s not the dreadlocks the school has a problem with; it’s the length of them. The dress code states that “male students’ hair cannot extend below the eyebrows or ear lobes, and must be kept shorter than the top of a T-shirt collar.”
Now, Arnold and his family are battling the school board, arguing that their order that he cut off his dreadlocks to be allowed to participate in his own graduation ceremony is a form of racist discrimination.
“He should get to choose who he identifies himself as, and he shouldn’t be discriminated against,” his mother, Sandy Arnold, told CNN. “You don’t tell girls they can’t have short hair. It’s so much bigger than DeAndre.”
Controversy surrounding school dress codes is certainly nothing new. There have been so many headlines in recent years about how dress codes tend to be racist or sexist, with double standards that most negatively affect girls and students from minority groups. A policy on hair length isn’t unique, but what does hair length have to do with learning? The antiquated idea that allowing students to express themselves with a personal style as harmless as the length of their hair will interfere with their learning isn’t doing students any favors. In fact, it’s negatively affecting them, as we can see in a case like Arnold’s.
“It’s not keeping DeAndre from learning,” Sandy Arnold said. “The only time I have to be in the office is concerning his hair. That’s the distraction.”
The family has made their case to the school board and is waiting for a decision. But their lawyer told reporters they intend to keep fighting if the school board also says Arnold needs to cut off his dreadlocks.
“They have 48 hours to come up with a resolution or we’re taking this to federal court,” he said.