Kaden Bradford and his cousin DeAndre Arnold were unfairly suspended for wearing their natural hair to school earlier this year.
Earlier this year, Texas teenager Kaden Bradford was suspended from high school for his dreadlocks. The Barbers Hill Independent School District in Mont Belvieu, Texas, argued that the school's hair policy, which dictates that students cannot "wear their hair gathered up in a style that would be too long when it is let down," was applicable to Bradford as well. However, United States District Court Judge George C. Hanks, Jr. issued a preliminary injunction this week that calls on Barbers Hill to allow him to attend school and participate in extracurricular activities—without cutting his hair. The move has been seen as a win for Black students everywhere, CNN reports.
A TX school district cannot prohibit a Black teenager from wearing his hair in locs, a federal court has ruled.— AJ+ (@ajplus) August 19, 2020
Kaden Bradford can now begin the school year w/out facing suspension.
His cousin, De'Andre Arnold, was blocked from participating in graduation with his locs in May. pic.twitter.com/vJICpCYQlV
"Locs is a natural Black hair formation and I am an African American," Bradford, who is set to return to school as a junior this year, said in an interview with CNN. "Also to piggyback off of that I've grown up around the Trinidadian culture and locs is a very important part in that culture as well." During the last academic year, he wore his hair up in a hairband in order to comply with the school's policy, which states that boys should make sure that their hair does "not extend, at any time, below the eyebrows, below the ear lobes, or below the top of a t-shirt collar." In December, this policy was tightened so boys could not wear their hair gathered up in a style that would be "too long" when it is let down.
Thrilled for our amazing client #KadenBradford who is now able to return to school w/out the threat of being forced to choose b/w his identity & his education. It's past time that schools focus on what's in a student's head--not what's on it. https://t.co/ABzjuOfxhh via @nbcnews— Janai Nelson (@JNelsonLDF) August 18, 2020
For those with African American hairstyles, especially dreadlocks, it may not be straightforward enough to follow these rules. Bradford, in particular, has been wearing his hair in locs ever since he was in the seventh grade, and has refrained from cutting it as the locs would unravel if he did. He was, however, not the only one to experience an issue with regard to his hair. The student's cousin, DeAndre Arnold, was also punished with in-school suspension for having his hair in long locs. Additionally, he was told he would not be allowed to walk during his graduation ceremony unless he cut his hair. His story gathered national attention; Arnold was featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Alicia Keys offered her his support.
Both students filed lawsuits on the grounds of racial discrimination. The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund represented both Bradford and Arnold—and won. "We are encouraged by the court's decision to grant our request to enjoin enforcement of BHISD's discriminatory dress and grooming policy," stated senior counsel Michaele Turnage Young in a statement. "It is heartening that the court has recognized K.B.'s (Bradford's) prospects for success on our race discrimination, gender discrimination, and freedom of expression claims in this lawsuit, and ensured that K.B. does not have to continue enduring discrimination that disrupts his learning and reinforces a damaging message of intolerance in the educational environment."
Meanwhile, Barbers Hill Independent School District Superintendent Greg Poole claimed he was disappointed by the ruling and continued to defend the policy. Bradford, on the other hand, is just relieved he can get back to school, even under the current circumstances. He shared, "I was really relieved that, you know, I'd be able to go back to school, I'd be able to go back to [the] normal environment that I've always known and grown up around." He hoped the outcome of the lawsuit would protect other students from experiencing the same kind of discrimination.