Case Studies of Hair Discrimination in Schools
Advocating for Hair Equality
We began advocating for hair equality in 2017 by profiling two cases of hair discrimination.
Having previously published a case study on bullying and boys with long hair, parents started contacting us with accounts of their sons being barred from attending school, made to cut their hair, forced into ISS (in school suspension) and more.
Mostly they were looking for help, and we were glad to hear from them.
As we learned about more cases we began to understand this was happening to boys with long hair at schools around the United States and abroad.
With every parent who wrote (in some cases young men themselves), it became increasingly clear we had to document these cases, while sharing the measures and tactics families have taken in their pursuit of hair equality.
What Do We Mean By Hair Equality?
Before we dive in we should explain what we mean by hair equality. We advocate for hair equality in schools, in the workplace and in general, but here we focus on schools.
When we talk about hair equality we are talking about hair length: that everyone should be able to grow their hair however long they choose, or in the case of minors however long their parents allow them to grow it.
As you’ll see in many cases it’s been distinguished as racial discrimination, or gender discrimination, or religious discrimination. Though we support these movements—both as important issues in their own right as well as a means to advance hair equality more broadly—to us it’s simply hair discrimination.
Hair Discrimination Case Profiles
Joshua, TX (USA)
Last Update: February, 2020
In the first of two families profiled in Should These Boys Be Banned From School?, Habib Dwabe and his family were told in 2017 that his hair violated the Joshua Independent School District (JISD) Dress and Grooming Code, and that he must cut his hair before attending school.
His family refused to cut his hair, which Habib was growing with the intent to donate to charity. Arriving at school he was barred from attending regular class and subjected to ISS for several days.
The family began braiding and pinning up Habib’s hair every day, such that his hair was secured above his collar—a painstaking workaround requiring 30-40 bobby pins and 20-30 minutes every school day.
In October 2017 the parents were informed the Campus Improvement Committee (CIC) had voted 12-0 in favor of no changes to the code. Habib would have to continue pinning his hair up every day or be confined to ISS.
The family filed a grievance with the school, and later a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights, neither of which have yielded results. They’ve since written to local government, Congress, the Governor of Texas, even the President, while exploring civil litigation and other legal options.
The braiding/pinning went on through the entire 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years. Habib cut 20 inches of his hair in August 2019, which he donated to Children With Hair Loss, thus entering the 2019-2020 school year with his hair meeting the code.
Most recently, however, with his hair growing longer again, the family was told Habib would have to cut his hair.
Mont Belvieu, TX (USA)
Last Update: February, 2020
The second family we previously featured was in Mont Belvieu, TX, where four-year-old Jabez Oates was being barred from class because his hair violated the Dress and Grooming Code in the Barbers Hill ISD Student Handbook, which states:
Male students’ hair will not extend, at any time, below the eyebrows or below the ear lobes. Male students’ hair must not extend below the top of a t-shirt collar or be gathered or worn in a style that would allow the hair to extend below the top of a t-shirt collar, below the eyebrows, or below the ear lobes when let down.
In a 2017 statement issued by the district, his mother was told not to bring Jabez back to school until his hair met the school guidelines. After an ongoing struggle with the school administration and local community, Jabez and his family were compelled to leave Mont Belvieu in favor of a more accepting and supportive community, where Jabez attends regular school with his long hair.
Mont Belvieu, TX (USA)
Last Update: February, 2020
Another case in Mont Belvieu, Texas, exploded on the internet when senior high school student DeAndre Arnold was banned from walking in his high school graduation unless he cut his locs (dreadlocks).
DeAndre was placed on ISS, unable to attend regular classes with his peers.
Critics contend the Barbers Hill ISD rule is racist and sexist. DeAndre is of Trinidadian descent and shares a connection with his culture via his locs that he has grown since the seventh grade.
In a dramatic development of events, DeAndre was invited onto the Ellen Degeneres Show, where singer Alicia Keys presented him with a college scholarship for $20,000.
His case gaining national attention, DeAndre was invited and attended the Academy Awards with actress Gabrielle Union, N.B.A. champ Dwyane Wade and Matthew A. Cherry, creators of “Hair Love,” an Oscar-nominated short film.
DeAndre has changed schools. His cousin, Kaden Bradford, who attends Barbers Hill High School, was recently suspended for his locs.
- CBS News: Dreadlocks graduation ceremony: Texas teen DeAndre Arnold suspended, told no walking at graduation because of his hair and the dress code
- CNN: If this Texas student doesn't cut his dreadlocks, he won't get to walk at graduation. It's another example of hair discrimination, some say
- NY Times: Student Suspended Over Dreadlocks Is Invited to the Oscars
East TX (USA)Last Update: February, 2020
Parents of a five-year-old boy with long hair in a small town east of Dallas explained the school district had demanded their son cut his hair. Here is his mother’s account:
This school year started in mid-August for us. After three days we received a note in my son’s folder from the principal stating Kieran (my son) was in violation of the hair rule and we had seven days to comply. In those seven days, we spoke with, or attempted to speak with, the superintendent, all seven school board members and the principal. We were told the dress code is not discriminatory.
Although a number of parents in the community have had similar concerns, we appear to be quite outnumbered. A large number of people in our town have voiced that nothing needs to change and we should follow the rules or move.
After seven days we received another note stating that Kieran would be subject to ISS until his hair was in compliance with the rule.
At that point we considered our options: 1) homeschool; 2) pull Kieran from kindergarten altogether (since Texas doesn’t require kids to be in kindergarten until age six); 3) allow him to go to ISS while we fight the rule/punishment; 4) cut his hair.
We included Kieran in the conversation and because he loves school and was really thriving in the environment, he chose to cut his hair, but he did ask that we keep fighting the rule.
Kieran cut his hair so he could be allowed to attend regular classes. No changes have been made to the grooming policy.
Elementary School Dress Code from the district handbook.
Poth, TX (USA)
Last Update: February, 2020
When 11-year-old Maggie Johnson started treatment as a result of a Wegener’s disease diagnosis, her older brother immediately started growing out his hair. Wegener’s disease is an autoimmune disease often requiring rounds of chemotherapy and dialysis treatments causing hair loss.
Her brother, Newt Johnson, was a high school student attending the Poth Independent School District in Texas until he recently withdrew himself. Newt made the decision to disenroll after district officials enforced a rule that male students are not permitted to have hair “beyond the ear opening on the sides nor beyond the top of a dress shirt collar in the back.”
Lipan, TX (USA)
Last Update: February, 2020
Cole Taylor was a guest on The Longhairs podcast in August, 2018. At that time he was entering his junior year in high school with a mission to grow his hair long to donate in memory of a family friend who had lost his life to cancer.
Cole’s high school had a strict personal grooming policy prohibiting boys’ hair from extending below the collar—far too short for donating to charity. Approaching the fall term, with the support of his parents he approached the school with a request for permission to grow his hair long so he could donate at The Great Cut.
The school made an exception to the rule and allowed Cole to continue growing his hair, and he went through with his commitment to donate.
Although it was a win, the policy had not actually changed. As Cole entered his senior year (2019-2020) he kept growing his hair, this time approaching the school administration with a permanent policy revision.
With a collaborative approach, Cole compared the policy to those of other schools, debated any hindrance on the day-to-day life of a student, and demonstrated the rule was antiquated and unnecessary.
As a result of his efforts, we are happy to report the school administration did in fact change it’s policy, which now reads:
Cole recapped his experience donating his hair:
As for The Great Cut, I sent my own, my sister’s and a number of other people’s hair from a local salon. It was awesome, scary yes, but it was worth it to do something like that for kids who deserve the world. I still consider myself blessed to have been part of that event.
His case proves to be an important one. Not only was it a win for hair equality, but it illustrates one path by which others may advance hair equality.
Listen to Cole Taylor on The Longhairs Podcast, Episode 48: A Win For Students With Long Hair.
Policy has been revised and no longer prohibits long hair.
London (United Kingdom)
Last Update: September, 2018
12-year-old Chikayzea Flanders faced threats of suspension from his all-boys school in London because of his hair. Chikayzea and his mother are proud Rastafarians who believe that Chikayzea should have the right to wear his locs in celebration of their religion.
With help from supporters, Chikayzea’s mother took the Fulham Boys School to court with claims of religious discrimination. The school overturned their decision permitting Chikayzea to return to school with his locs under certain conditions, such as his locs do not touch his collar.
Duncan, B.C. (Canada)
Last Update: October, 2018
We learned of the following case from a parent in British Columbia. Here is her account:
We were told by Queen Margaret’s School, a private school in Duncan B.C. (Canada), that our son, Max, (10 at the time), had been accepted into the school, but that he would not be able to start until he “cut his hair like a boy.” When I asked them to define, “like a boy,” they responded, “short and above the collar.”
I explained that Max prefers to wear his hair long and, as he is a boy, his hair is already a boy’s style. I also pointed out that this “dress code” was sexist, because girls were allowed to have any length they wanted, and on top of that cutting Max’s hair would be quite traumatic for him. Still the school insisted that, as a private school, they could have their own rules.
When I asked to see this code, it did not exist in writing in their handbook, yet they insisted. My son refused, and rightly so, saying that he had the right to have autonomy over his own body and the right as a boy to have long hair if he wished. The school responded by refusing to accept our deposit so that we could not finalize our application, excluding him from the school camping trip. It was very much where initial friendships were formed, and Max definitely felt that exclusion in a negative way.
After doing some research, however, we found that personal characteristics and gender expression, including appearance and hair length, are protected by the BC Human Rights Code. Schools therefore cannot discriminate based on hair length, cannot force cut a child’s hair, and certainly cannot ignore the BC Human Rights Code, whether private or public.
I went back to the school and said:
1) This is an important LGTBQ issue that boys should have the right to self-determine their identity expression
2) The BC Human Rights Code specifically says that no group can discriminate against an individual based on gender or gender expression, and that this code details hair as a form of gender expression. I provided this link: Human Rights in British Columbia - Discrimination based on gender identity or expression fact sheet
3) Our son will agree to conform to rules for long hair, which state in their rule book that hair must be pulled off the face with a headband or in a ponytail (in practice we saw many girls wearing their hair down without any form of control, and pictures on their website show girls with long, straight hair. So by tidy, I guess they mean “straight,” which brings up a whole set of other uncomfortable questions about what happens if said person is ethnic or has curly hair, which my son does.)
When we brought this to the head of the school’s attention, the school considered and made the decision to change their policy. An all-school notice was sent out saying that, going forward, boys could have long hair and girls could have short hair, but anyone with long hair had to have it neatly brushed or in a ponytail.
We appreciated the school’s willingness to reconsider, even if it was a bit belated, and although the discussions were painful and being the first long-haired boy at the school was a bit of a challenge, our son felt good about making a positive change for other kids, male or female, who come after him.
In the end, we felt our voices were heard and listened to (eventually), and we hope that no other boys who choose to wear their hair long will have to endure exclusion or force cutting.
Also, we felt our son learned that sometimes authority is wrong and it’s important to take a stand and fight for something you believe in, and that sometimes you have to “be the change” you want to see in the world. It’s also inspiring to see others around you, including the school, recognize that the time has come to make a change, and participate in actively making it happen.
London (United Kingdom)
Last Update: January, 2020
A London native by the name Farouk James, 8, has gained considerable attention advocating for gender, race, and hair equality via social media.
Farouk has been refused access to an esteemed Christian school in his area due to the length of his hair. His mother, Bonnie, has been vocal in her opposition to rules that prevent boys from growing their natural hair long.
“Forcing children to cut their hair is totally against human rights and I will not give up trying to persuade governments to put legislation in place to protect children from these outdated, punishing rules.”
Springfield, MO (USA)
Last Update: April, 2020
In another example of leadership at the student level, high school sophomore Connor Marler wanted to grow his hair long during the 2017-18 academic year, however the Catholic school he attended maintained a grooming policy prohibiting long hair on male students.
In response to the policy, Connor wrote a 10-page proposal to the school district. In his Five Theses, Connor identifies five points of contention with the male grooming policy, giving reason to change it but also offering policy revisions.
Over the next two academic years he was granted meetings with the Assistant Principal, the Principal, and even the Director of Catholic schools in the area. While each person he met with was impressed by Connor and his proposal, none have been willing to change the policy.
Cases of Hair Discrimination Published Here
What we know is hair discrimination is happening, and boys with long hair and their families are being made to choose between attending school or cutting their hair.
Whether his long hair represents his racial, cultural or ethnic heritage, his religious beliefs, whether he wishes to donate his hair, or it’s simply an expression of his identity...no child should have to make that choice.
A fraction of hair discrimination cases are represented here, and for each case we know about, there are many more. We’ll build on these stories, because the more we can show what is happening, the more we can affect change.
If you are facing or become aware of an instance of hair discrimination we would like to publish your story here. As the discussion unfolds we’ll continue to advocate, and someday boys won’t have to choose between going to school and cutting their hair.
The Path To Hair Equality
A federal lawsuit is setting important precedent and paving the way for hair equality in Texas.
See how this lawsuit is changing the landscape, along with other tools and best practices for students and families grappling with discriminatory dress codes.
Who Are You Guys and Why Do You Care About Hair Equality?
We are The Longhairs. We publish hair tips and tactics for guys growing their hair, advocate for hair equality and celebrate men’s long manes with hair whips and high fives.
We’re creators of Hair Ties For Guys and other superior products for guys with flow, but our true purpose goes much deeper.
In 2018 we landed a deal with Mark Cuban on ABC’s Shark Tank, but we’re still trying to get him to grow his hair out.
In 2019 we broke the Guinness World Records title for the most hair donated to charity in 24 hours at The Great Cut, a charity hair-cutting event where we donated over 339 pounds of hair and $50,000 to Children With Hair Loss.
Since then we’ve circled back to this topic, one of our core values...and here we are. Hope you enjoyed the read, please comment below and share if you support hair equality.
Any school system that has time to obsess over the length of a guy’s hair doesn’t have enough real work to do. If a guy wants to have long hair, he should. Period. As long as it is clean and not in his face, what’s the problem? Believe me, I heard the Bible verses about the “sin” of long hair, and those are taken way, way out of context!
These authoritarian types should stop trying to bind their beliefs on everyone else. Let’s bind the shears instead!
Thank you for what you’re doing!
ACLU warns 500 Texas school districts to revise discriminatory dress codes
This is big news Mark, thanks for sharing!
What is it about Texas?
This disturbing, I read this the day after a friend & her teenage children were confronted by a public school truant officer making a home visit. This fool threatened her 16 year old daughter over not finishing on-line school work with being taken to Juvenille detention, her mother threatened with fines. I found out the truant officer name & called him. I told him to grow eyes in the back of his head if ever knocks her door again!
With all the issues in our public schools, how can they give any thought to length of a boys hair? I noticed the boys were from Texas for the most part. Texas is a backwards joke, I was trained there in the Air Force and spent enough time there to know Texas is a mess!
Boys & girls both have had long hair in school as long as I can remember, I’m sixty five that’s awhile. Why now is it an issue? I spent ten (10) years in the Air Force protecting & defeding the “rights” of every American. Coming home from Vietnam the hippy war protestors tried my patience sorely! If one of those boys were mine, and the schools took issue with the length of his hair, they would find out what a fight is all about! Where were these boys parents?
Thanks for writing in Scott, and for your service in defending our rights. The part of your comment that resonated most with me,
With all the issues in our public schools, how can they give any thought to length of a boys hair?
It’s baffling. There are so many problems we can better direct our energies toward.
In any case, glad you are letting it ride!
Texas definitely is a backwards joke.
Virginia Becomes Fourth State To Ban Hair Discrimination
Colorado becomes 5th state to ban natural hair discrimination
This is good news Mark! Five and counting. Thanks for the follow-up!
I’m kind of late in the game, but I wanted to chime in anyway.
I definitely feel that physical appearance has been taken way out of context, in general. Regardless of who it is. We live in a country that prides itself in the endless freedom it offers, yet the government and other agencies are allowed to micromanage things that should have never been issues at all. I, myself have experienced discrimination because of my visible tattoos, I have not been hired for jobs, I have been ignored in small businesses, treated like I was a thief, etc. I also used to own a tattoo shop in rural Arizona, and was denied a residential property because of it. I do not by any means feel entitled or that my problems are greater than most, I just believe that for myself and human beings as a race, should not have to be denied things that are essential, like school, a home, work, service and so on, merely based on how we choose to alter(or not alter) our appearance.
Are we not fighting a greater war than this? Should our focus be on vanity while people are still fighting to survive?
I allowed my son’s hair to grow from the beginning of his life because as his mother I felt it encapsulated who he was. I felt it was a part of allowing him to grow into who he would become. He would pave his own way, I was only providing him the freedom to do that.
Now that he is old enough to make that choice for himself, he chooses to keep his long hair, it is a part of him, his identity. And with so much uncertainty, and so little you can control as a child, why not allow them to control this one thing? As it was always theirs to begin with?
We have considered ourselves blessed to now be a part of a school that affords him those same freedoms.
But as the charter school he attends only goes to the 5th grade (which will be next year for him) I am hesitant and nervous about applying for his next school, as I anticipate not having as quite an easy time. The school I plan for him to attend during his middle school years has a very specific policy in their handbook about the hair of boys, and I really have no idea what their response will be when I ask them to make an exception for my son(or better yet, change the policy altogether). I plan to apply within the next couple of months and will update when that happens.
Changing the way others think of hair is only the beginning of changing the way they think of people altogether.
Here’s to all the citizens of the world that stand up for what is just, not for self gain, but for the liberation of all.
Well-spoken, Mommy of Samson. Glad to hear from you and thanks for chiming in!
logical question to those school adminstrators: you teach children that everyone is born free, and ( to protect them from pedophilia) they are the only owner of their body; and you make rules about their hair
you ask they respect you, but you don’t respect them !!!
the sense of education is giving them tools and experience for making their own judgment and opinions; and you refuse in the case of their hair length they make their choices
then, you are surprised that American people are so illogical….
if you, teacher, were logical, your students could learn logical
you see those case are most in Christian schools, with always the citation of Paul, Corinthians 11-14
some parsons letting singing in their churches songs as this one: https://youtu.be/qpPkFZS2FJY
for me, it is difficult understanding how wearing a bun makes itself a bastard…
i answer them Luke 11-46 “Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.”
“burdens grievous to be borne” indeed chamane!
The “long hair” that the Apostle Paul is referring to is not referring to shoulder-length hair. In Paul’s day, a woman never cut her hair. She grew her hair her entire life. Therefore, a better translation would be “uncut hair” instead of merely “long hair”. Shoulder-length hair was not considered long in Paul’s day and in other parts of history where shoulder-length hair was acceptable.
Check out this video for more information:
to annoy those conservative administrators, a subject to study in the french language course: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plrf6WYnjiQ ( an hymn to longhair men)
No one and no goervment should be able to say what we do with our bodies, I am now retired but as a Dental Labratory Manager I had extremely long hair but still handled employees and Dentists on a daily basis. In Minnesota we are respected for who we are not by who they want you to be. We are not forced into someone else’s insecure roles to join there club. I say fight against all injustice where ever you find it and in whatever form. Die on your feet than live on your knees!!!
Glad to have you here Mark, thanks for the comment!
I first decided I wanted to grow out my hair when I was about 13, initially inspired by those Vikings/game of thrones/braveheart style movies, and then it became a must-do, after discovering heavy metal and deciding to be a musician.
Unfortunately, I went to a very conservative school with a very restrictive sexist Dress code, so I was forced to cut my hair for 3+ years (to keep it from touching the collar), so it was in chronic awkward stage for what felt like forever. On a good day I looked like Kurt Cobain with a bad perm. As soon as it started to get long enough to relax and control, and actually start to look good a letter was sent home and threats of suspension were issued. Sometimes I wonder if this was done not so much to uphold a dress code but some vindictive pleasure taken in robbing a young person of self-expression and personal identity.
If I had my time at that age again I would try harder to persuade my parents to move me to a better school, and my advice to the young dudes and parents being discriminated against is to dispute it, and try to change schools if not taken seriously. If a school is that narrow-minded about hair, then there is a good chance it may have other issues such as being dismissive of individuals with more creative aptitudes.
I am amazed that this is still going on in 2020, 25 years since I left school
THEY MAY TAKE OUR MANES, BUT THEY’LL NEVER TAKE OUR FREEDOM!
Thanks for sharing Marc, well said.
You guys nailed this one. As someone who recently graduated high school and had long hair for most of my school career, this really hit home. I was homeschooled and didn’t have to deal with this silliness, but I cannot IMAGINE having to go through that. Phenomenal job documenting it. I hope we continue to see changes and progress in this area.
Christian, thank you man! Glad you weren’t subjected to this and have made it through school w/ mane intact.
as usually, i bear my sword to fight against this tyranny ( 2nd amendment)
in europe, except some religious schools in UK, there are now none of those prosecutions !!!
and man bun men are so common that they don’t case any trouble…
Always glad to have your sword on our side!
It’s sad that, years after I graduated from high school, it is still happening.
Champions think alike John.
What the f*** is happening in those schools, in USA and other countries?!
Vote for politicians who respect normal people, whether they are men, women, something in between, straight, gays, something else or boys/guys with long hair!
So thankful to live in Scandinavia.
LARS! Thanks for the comment. Wonder what it’s like living there.
The more I read about Scandinavian countries the more I like, so I’m kind of envious. Apparently, they have the happiest people in the world. Perhaps the trade-off for having schools with reasonable school dress codes that don’t discriminate against long hair, is the army draft at 18 ( if it is true that all guys still need to do army service in Scandinavian countries)?
Long hair is a right not a privilege. Men and women have been growing their hair long for longer than written history. It is seen as a sign of discipline in many societies, and a natural part of the human body. I advocate for the right to decide for oneself how to keep their hair.
Thanks Nicholas, agreed all around.
I am in full support of the CROWN act among people of African descent. That movement is gaining momentum.
As for long hair for men and boys in general, there needs to be a more team effort. Too many guys are dealing with it on an individual basis when it needs to be done as a group. To date, New York City is the only jurisdiction that I know of that disallows separate hair length rules for men and women.
Thanks for your help w/ this article Mark, appreciate your insight and support!
If it’s a private institution, they can make boys cut their hair. OTOH, if it’s a public school, then contact the ACLU to file a lawsuit, as a government MUST be equitable, especially under Title IX. Also, the 14th Amendment of the Constitution promotes equal protection. Therefore, if every boys MUST cut their hair, so should girls.
Thank you for the additional info Tim!
I’ve suffered from the same discrimination. It was a private Christian school so I don’t know if there was anything I could have done. Luckily I am out in college, enjoying my hair, and am willing to help end this discrimination any way I can.
Thank you William, glad to have you here!
This was incredibly informative- thank you for allowing these boys and their parents a place to voice their acceptance problems. I am sure your support goes a long way to reassure them they are doing the right thing.
Thank you Paula!