Statement of Support for DeAndre Arnold

Update: Houston media is now reporting a second student–DeAndre’s cousin Kaden Bradford–facing suspension for dreadlocks in Barbers Hill ISD.

February 1, 2020

Open Letter To:  Barbers Hill ISD Superintendent Gregory Poole, Members of the Barbers Hill ISD School Board, and all Texas School Officials

Statement of Support for DeAndre Arnold

The undersigned stand in support of DeAndre Arnold’s right to keep his hair in dreadlocks and not be subject to discriminatory dress-code policies, such as the one he faced in Barbers Hill ISD.

Because DeAndre was forced to leave the district for this violation of his rights, we urge Barbers Hill ISD to begin immediate steps to change the dress-code policy so that it is not discriminatory on any grounds—whether racial, religious or gender related—for any student in the future. Additionally, the district owes DeAndre an apology and an invitation to return if he chooses.

The positive side of this story is that people are recognizing this as a Civil Rights issue and demanding justice for DeAndre. This week he was awarded money on the Ellen Degeneres Show to help him attend college and pursue his academic goals. And the makers of the Oscar-nominated short film “Hair Love” have arranged for DeAndre to attend the Academy Awards in Los Angeles. The film depicts a black father attempting to do his daughter’s hair for the first time, so it’s a fitting tribute that the filmmakers are standing in solidarity with DeAndre.

Dress codes should not be so constrictive that they place a district in the role of referee to make judgements about whether an infraction of the code is allowable for religious or other reasons. Dress codes should only serve to ensure that student learning is not disrupted, and we can in no way see how DeAndre’s hair would be a disruption.

To be frank, policies such as the one in Barbers Hill are discriminatory, outdated, don’t serve any purpose, and end up creating a distraction to the learning environment for these reasons. California already has banned such discriminatory policies. We urge all districts in Texas to update their dress codes as well to ensure that students like DeAndre are do not face injustice.

Sincerely,

Zeph Capo
President, Texas American Federation of Teachers

Jeff Freitas
President, California Federation of Teachers

Photo: KHOU TV Houston