MONT BELVIEU, Texas — Jessica Oates is trying to figure out what to do next after her 4-year-old son, Jabez, was told he can’t return to Pre-K until he cuts his long hair.
“I bought him all his school supplies, his school clothes, his backpack and he was enthralled. Now he’s confused as to why he can’t go to school anymore,” Oates said.
It’s a Barber’s Hill ISD dress code rule Oates knew about, but thought Jabez could be excused, due to cultural reasons.
“My family is American-Indian. We are Cocopah Indian and that was the documentation that I was going to provide for the reason for my son’s long hair. It’s a signal of strength,” Oates said.
“I had the principal contact me and state that documentation would no longer be enough. Apparently, the school board is a stickler for rules and can’t think of any religions or cultures that would require long hair,” Oates continued.
Oates said Barbers Hill School policy does not allow boys to have long hair and no student, regardless of gender, is allowed to sport any “inappropriate” hair accessories.
Oates said Jabez went to school for two days last week– once with his long hair down, and then with his hair in a bun.
But on Monday, Oates said school officials told her Jabez’s hair accessories were inappropriate.
“They sent him home on the grounds that that black hair tie, one of these black hair ties, is inappropriate. It’s an inappropriate hair accessory apparently,” Oates said.
She’s now looking for daycare options for Jabez, an extra load on her already-full hands.
“I’ve gotten a lot of backlash from the community about this. It has been vile. A lot of people have told me to move and get out of here. But I live here and I take care of my aunt because she has health issues and that can’t change. It just can’t. And I can’t home school because I work full-time and I’m trying to find a second job. I’m a single mom and so home-schooling really just isn’t an option,” Oates said. “All I have is the public school system and right now, that is absolutely failing my child.”
The following is a comment from Dr. Greg Poole, Barbers Hill ISD Superintendent:
Barbers Hill ISD believes in the sanctity of local control. Our policies, including expectations of appearance, are fashioned by our Board of Trustees, all of whom are taxpayers in the Barbers Hill school district and have had children attend our schools.
Barbers Hill is one of the premier districts in the state by any measure, and our student enrollment has grown for each of the past 30 years. Much of this growth has been fueled by those who are seeking a rigorous educational environment of high expectations for their children.
Parents have a right to seek an appropriate educational setting for their child, just as Ms. Oates has the right to place her child in a district that reflects her personal expectations for standards of appearance. There are procedures in place for addressing concerns over policy if it is Ms. Oates’ desire to have her son educated in Barbers Hill ISD. But we would and should justifiably be criticized if our district lessened its expectations or longstanding policies simply to appease.