Ellen DeGeneres Gives $20,000 Scholarship To Teen Told To Cut His Dreadlocks

by Christina Marfice
Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.

Ellen DeGeneres is now one of the many voices urging a Texas school district to give up their dress code

Ellen DeGeneres is now one of many people who are standing behind a Texas teen who hasn’t been allowed to attend his classes and was told he can’t walk in his own graduation ceremony this spring unless he cuts off his dreadlocks first. DeAndre Arnold, a senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas, appeared on The Ellen Show this week to tell his story.

News reports last week said that Arnold has been forced into in-school suspension and that school officials told him he won’t be able to participate at graduation unless he cuts his dreadlocks, which violate the school district’s dress code. It’s not the actual dreadlocks the district takes issue with — it’s the length. They have a requirement that male students’ hair can’t be below their ears and collar. Even though Arnold wears his dreadlock up in ponytails and buns in an effort to comply, his family said he’s been singled out this year, and that he doesn’t want to cut his hair because long dreadlocks are a hallmark of his family’s Trinidadian heritage.

During his appearance on The Ellen Show, Arnold, who wants to become a veterinarian, was presented with a $20,000 scholarship for college. But first, he got a chance to tell a little more of his heartbreaking story.

First, the host pointed out that the district’s sudden reaction to Arnold’s hair just doesn’t make any sense.

“You get good grades,” she said. “You’ve never been in trouble, ever. This is the first time anything has come up. And now, you haven’t been in school for weeks because of this situation.”

Ellen also pointed out the double standard at play — that girls at Barber Hill High can have hair as long as they want it, but Arnold’s long hair isn’t allowed.

“There’s plenty of girls with long hair at my school,” he said. “Like, if girls can have long hair, why can’t I have long hair?”

During his time on the show, Arnold told Ellen about why he’s so against cutting his hair, and why the dress code policy isn’t inclusive.

“It’s really important to me because my dad is from Trinidad,” he explained. “And I really wish the school would kind of be open to other cultures and just, at least let us try to tell you some things. Don’t just shut us out.”

We still don’t know what the future will hold for Arnold and this situation. He explained on Ellen that his only options right now are to continue with in-school suspension and miss walking at his graduation ceremony, or transfer to another school for kids with behavioral issues. His school district ignored several requests for comment from Ellen’s team.

“I am begging you. This kid is a good kid. He deserves to graduate, to walk with all the other kids,” Ellen said into the camera before the end of the segment. “He’s a good guy. I just am urging you to do the right thing. Please.”