With all the learning and socialization that needs to take place in kindergarten, it’s hard to imagine a school district getting caught up in a struggle over how long a child’s hair can be. It’s even harder to imagine a child being ordered to learn in isolation because of his hair.
Yet that’s exactly what happened in rural Needville Texas, according to a story in the Houston Chronicle, The paper has been following the case of a five-year-old American Indian boy who was kept out of class for several months because of the length of his hair.
The school district maintained the boy had violated the school’s dress code, which forbids boys from wearing their hair long. The boy was told he could wear his hair in one long braid tucked into his shirt, but when he arrived wearing two braids outside his shirt he was ordered to attend classes in isolation.
It took the involvement of a federal judge to rule that the Needville School District had violated state law and the U.S. Constitution by punishing the boy for his religious beliefs. The boy’s father maintained that the part-Apache Indian child considered his long hair sacred, and held to a tradition of not cutting it except during major life events.
The case drew the interest of the American Civil Liberties Union after the boy was suspended for not complying with a school’s dress code policy that required short hair. The boy’s parents had sent him to school in braids. The ACLU lauded the judge’s decision.