The absurdity of school districts creating a stigma over Black hairstyles is back in the news, as a teenager has been barred from attending a Houston-area school over having dreadlocks.
According to local reports, a mother in East Bernard, Texas was shocked when a school official told her that her son, Dyree Williams, cannot enroll because he has dreadlocks and his mother refused to cut them. “The boys cannot have hair past their ears. I explained to her that my son has locks in his hair, and well, she was like, ‘Well he’s going to have to cut those,’” the boy’s mother, Desiree Bullock, said to the local news station. They had relocated to the area from Cincinnati, Ohio in February. The East Bernard ISD student handbook does show that it does forbid “braided hair or twisted rows/strands,” in its policy about its dress code, which was posted on its website until recently.
She appealed to the district superintendent, Courtney Hudgins, hoping to obtain a religious exception. “She got back to me and she said, ‘Your religious exemption would not be granted. It could not be granted at this time,’” Bullock said. The news left her highly upset. “Once you cut that hair off, you cut off your line to your ancestors, you cut off your lineage, you cut off everything. And just it’s not an option … We don’t consider them dreadlocks because we don’t dread them we love them.”
When contacted, Hudgins stated that the East Bernard school district was aware of the allegations brought against them but denied they actively blocked Bullock’s son from enrolling. “East Bernard ISD has not denied enrollment to the individual involved in this situation, as no enrollment or registration documents have been filed,” Hudgins said. “East Bernard ISD intends to comply with state law regarding enrollment and attendance if and when an enrollment application is completed.” Bullock has opted to homeschool her son in the meantime along with his two sisters as she awaits clarification from the ISD. “It’s not right. My child should be able to keep his locks in his hair,” she said. The situation is the latest in a series of cases where Black students have been hurt by policies regarding hair in Texas school districts, even as the federal government is addressing discrimination in this manner with the passage of the CROWN Act in the House of Representatives and 12 states in the nation thus far.