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School Staff Color Teen's Head With Sharpie To Meet Dress Code

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A Texas school took their dress code way too far, and now they’re facing a lawsuit

A Texas teenager’s parents have filed a lawsuit against their son’s school, alleging that they disciplined him for supposedly violating the dress code in a truly horrific way: By coloring in his new fade haircut with a Sharpie marker.

Dante Trice and Angela Washington filed suit against Pearland Independent School District, Berry Miller Junior High School Principal Tony Barcelona, discipline clerk Helen Day, and teacher Jeanette Peterson. They say all three school officials (who are white) took turns coloring in their son’s head, and laughed and mocked him while they did it.

The lawsuit identifies the teen as 13-year-old J.T., and describes the haircut that supposedly violated the school dress code as a “fade haircut with a design line.” From photos, you can see the design looks like the letter “M.”

“The haircut did not depict anything violent, gang-related, obscene or otherwise offensive or inappropriate in any manner. J.T. did not believe the haircut violated any school policy,” the lawsuit reads.

But when J.T. arrived at school, then-Assistant Principal Barcelona sent him to the discipline office because he was “out of dress code.”

The lawsuit alleges that J.T. had a choice in how to deal with his dress code violation: He could go to in-school suspension, which would mean missing class and potentially losing his spot on the school track team, or he could have the fade line colored in. He’d never been in trouble before and was understandably terrified of being kicked off the track team over this, so “under great duress,” he chose to have his head colored in.

And while that’s horrifying in its own right, it’s not even the worst part of this story. J.T.’s parents’ lawsuit also alleges that school staff never attempted to call them, but instead took turns coloring in the line, laughing at J.T. while they did it. The poor kid.

They also say the Sharpie ink wouldn’t come off for days, and he was teased mercilessly by other students, who called him a “thug” and made him into memes.

The photos from the incident show that the colored-in part of J.T.’s haircut was probably even more noticeable after these staffers took a marker to it, so if their goal was to foster a learning environment free from distractions, this only did the opposite. And for school staff to lay their hands on a student this way without even attempting to contact his parents is abhorrent.

This is just the latest example of a school dress code coming under fire for racial disparity in how it allows students to dress and express themselves. J.T.’s family is seeking monetary damages from the school. Meanwhile, since this happened, Barcelona has reportedly been promoted from assistant principal to principal of the school.