Bad Hair Day?

"A.A." is a 5-year-old kindergartner in Needville, Texas. Last Friday, a Texas judge ordered A.A. back to school after weeks of being denied that opportunity.

The trouble all started on his first day of school last month, when A.A. arrived at school with his long hair tied into two neat and tidy braids — a violation, according to school officials, of the Needville Independent School District (NISD) dress code that prohibits boys from having long hair. As punishment, school administrators forced A.A. to spend his days in isolated in-school suspension.

Now be sure — A.A., in all of his 5-year-old glory, is not just wantonly disregarding the dress code in a brazen act of protest (though if he was, his right to do so might well be constitutionally protected). Rather, his braids are a reflection of his and his family's traditional American Indian religious beliefs — one of which holds that his hair is a sacred indicator of how long he has been on earth, and should rarely be cut.

Apparently, to Needville school officials, forcing all students to strictly adhere to NISD’s arbitrary dress code is more important than making an accommodation for the religious beliefs of a young boy and his family — even if failing to do so is a clear violation of his constitutional right to freely express his religion and heritage.

Last Thursday, the ACLU of Texas and the ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief filed a lawsuit on A.A.'s behalf. This filing, at least preliminarily, struck a chord with a U.S. district court judge. On Friday, a district judge granted the ACLU's request that A.A. be allowed to attend kindergarten in his regularly-assigned classroom with his peers while the lawsuit is litigated. The district’s ghastly and punitive action against A.A. for his sin of being "different" has, at least for now, been halted.

But give it to school district officials — they didn’t go down without taking a few wild swings that bordered on the absurd.

In what was a likely preview of the district’s defense of their actions, should this case go to trial, lawyers representing NISD argued on Friday that, unlike students who wear a Christian cross or Star of David around their necks, A.A. shouldn’t be allowed to keep his hair long because the religious meaning behind his doing so wouldn’t be readily understood by those around him. After all, district lawyers argued (and I’m not making this up!), Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson both have long hair which they often wear in braids and, since their hairstyles are not motivated by their American Indian heritage or religious faith, how could people possibly understand that A.A.’s is?

District lawyers also had the gall to argue that A.A. was doing well in in-school suspension, and that keeping him in isolation was just as good as his being in class with his fellow kindergartners — his education wasn’t being compromised at all. Sure sounds like a separate-but-equal argument if I’ve ever heard one. The fact that the Constitution ensures the flourishing of a rich array of religious faiths and expressions is part of what makes this country so special and unique — and whether they understand it or not, folks in Needville cannot be exempted from that fundamental principle.

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I'll comment. They allow muslim girls to wear headscarves, jews to wear yarmukles, etc. etc., I'm so sick of the MUST BE THE SAME ideology of the public failure systems (read schools) it makes me sick. It doesn't matter what is understood or not understood by anyone. If they're too stupid to understand, explain it to them. If they still don't understand, tell them it's none of their business.

So, what? they put a 5 year old in solitary confinement? He's gotta know that he's being "punished" for "something." AAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!


This is just so sick and twisted. The kid is 5, and have these folks never heard of the Native Americans? This is not a culture or religion new to the Americas that left they with an oops, didn't know! Insane!

Lanza Volante

I agree with the prior poster!

Segregating this young man is affecting his education and violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IV that he should receive an education free from discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion, sexual orientation or National origin. They know they have clerly vioalted the law, but adhere to assimilative policies of the American Indian as intact. It is just a blanket excuse to deny accountability to the laws that American governments make to protect their own citizens from such abuses of power and status. Needville needs to go back to school and learn what discrimination means.


Group think wins. We all must look the same, act the same, sound the same, and all because offending or upsetting another is just too much for our basic government to consider...


We as americans have the right of freedom of religion. Why is it ok for schools to not respect this? It is rediculous to say that it is ok to keep him seperate from the other students. Children need to socialize. It is not only wrong it is not good for his welfare.


And I do not think that it matters wether others understand the ways of this or any child's religion. It is not ok to discriminate. This is America and we are have the right to be free of religious persecution and discrimination.

John Michael

Who cares about religion? Long hair is ok for girls, why not boys? Does anyone remember title 9 stuggles to get girls equal access to sports? Is this any different?


Why is it O.K. for people of other belief systems to be recognized and allowed to uphold their beliefs EXCEPT for Christians. Come on, ACLU, if you're going to defend this student, and rightly so, then why not defend the children being punished for praying in school or reading their Bibles in school? Everyone else's beliefs are O.K.? That is true discrimination!


You hit the nail on the head with that. I live in Needville and their rules are outrages. Students in the 5th grade get after school and Saturday detention for not getting papers signed. Or if they miss a homework assignment. I am human and make mistakes all the time. Whom ever is making these rules must be perfect. Kids with very good grades and excellent conduct that miss an assignment go to detention. One instance I know of the boy did the wrong homework. What do they do to the really bad kids is my question.

Mrs. B

I live in Michigan and my son is one quarter Native American. He's a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa. He grew his hair long about three years ago as a way to show pride in his heritage. He just made the freshman basketball team and was told he MUST cut his hair. The coach told him teachers would respect him more with short hair. My son has always made the honor roll, has been a member of the national honor society since the 7th grade and won an award for perfect attendace last year. He even traveled through the state with his long hair representing the district speaking to an audience of Superintendents and principals. He is very respected by his teachers and principals. He doesn't want to cut his hair but feels he has to.

Any suggestions?


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