Student Forced Out Of School Because Of Strict Hair Policy

A Texas high school student was sent home because his hair violated a policy set in place within the district. He now needs to homeschool

By Rick Gonzales | Published

hair policy

When it comes to hair, high school junior Dyree Williams feels this is his link to his ancestors. For his entire 17 years, or since he could, Williams has worn his hair proudly in braids, twists, and dreadlocks. Now, his new high school’s hair policy is telling him the hairstyle has got to go.

Williams’ new high school is located in East Bernard, Texas, which is situated 50 miles outside of Houston. Prior to moving there, Williams was in school in Cincinnati, Ohio, and not once did the young man have an issue with his hair or a hair policy, nor did his school. Upon his arrival in East Bernard, that changed, and it went against everything Williams and his mother, Desiree Bullock stood for.

“Once you cut that hair off, you cut off your line to your ancestors, you cut off your lineage, you cut off everything,” Bullock said to CNN about the hair policy. “And just it’s not an option … We don’t consider them dreadlocks because we don’t dread them, we love them.”

Because of this love for his hair and for what they say it stands for, Bullock says they will not be complying with the school’s hair policy. “I feel really sick to my stomach,” she said. “I feel like [the district’s hair policy] needs to change, I feel like it’s horrible and I feel like it’s only toward African American children or people.” But it isn’t directed only toward African American children or people. In fact, the school’s policy goes into explicit detail as to what the hair policy entails.

“Boy’s hair may not extend below the eyebrows, below the tops of the ears or below a conventional standup shirt collar and must not be more than one-inch difference in the length of the hair on the side to the length of the hair on top,” reads the policy. It then goes on to read, “This includes but is not limited to tall hairstyles, side-swept bang styles, and long hair dangling over shaved sides or shaved back of the head. This also includes mullets and mullets in the making. Braided hair or cornrows will not be allowed. No extremes in hairstyles.” So, the school’s hair policy covers pretty much any hairstyle and is not directed specifically at Williams.

In her effort to fight the hair policy, Bullock took her son to the high school for a meeting. Her hope was that once they met Williams that the school would allow a little leeway and loosen the policy for her boy. That was not to be the case. Instead, the school’s administration simply referred Bullock and her son back to the student handbook, pointing to their strict dress code policy.

Bullock then decided to file for a religious exemption to fight the hair policy. This was sent to the school district superintendent but again, it was met with a denial. “The exemption request you filed has not been granted at this time,” wrote Courtney Hudgins, East Bernard Independent School District’s Superintendent in response to Bullock’s request. “Assuming the children can meet the dress code requirements, as well as all necessary paperwork for enrollment, they are welcome to enroll with our district registrar. Please contact the registrar to make an appointment for enrollment. If you have any specific questions regarding the dress code, please contact the campus principal.”

After receiving that disheartening email, Bullock sent a response of her own asking if the superintendent could clarify the district’s position on its hair policy decision. So far, Bullock has not heard back from the district. Bullock isn’t done, though. Not by any means.

“East Bernard ISD’s hair policy is deeply discriminatory and needs to be changed,” Brian Klosterboer, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas said in a statement concerning the hair policy via Black Enterprise. “The policy contains explicit gender discrimination that recent court decisions have found to be unconstitutional and violate Title IX, and it also explicitly bans ‘braided hair or twisted rows/strands,’ which is a proxy for race discrimination and disproportionately harms Black students in the district.”

Right now, Bullock says the options for her son are limited at best. In Texas, students are expected to attend the school in the district where they live. Transferring to another district is just not attainable for Bullock and her children. Presently she is homeschooling Williams along with his two sisters. The hair policy is stopping Williams from entering an important year as a high school junior and it is something that is causing Bullock many sleepless nights. She feels bad that her son is missing out on the college prep he’d be receiving. She is also upset that her son is missing the opportunity to run track for his school and possibly get noticed by scouts for college scholarships.