Texas judge blocks dress code that made Black student cut dreadlocks

Arnold gained national attention when he was told he would not be able to walk at his graduation.

A federal judge has ruled in favor of two Texas teenagers after the Barbers Hill Independent School District instituted a policy that meant they would have to cut their long dreadlocks.

Kaden Bradford and his cousin DeAndre Arnold sued the school district in December 2019 after they garnered national support for their natural hairstyles.

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U.S. District Judge George C. Hanks Jr. issued a preliminary injunction against the Barbers Hill Independent School District in Mont Belvieu, allowing 16-year-old Bradford to wear dreadlocks without the threat of punishment. 

Bradford and Arnold are cousins through their mothers. The women pledged that they would not cut their sons’ hair as it is a part of their identity. 

In a report from NBC News in January, Bradford’s mother said she paid to have Kaden’s dreadlocks cornrowed, or tightly-braided, so that they lay flat against his scalp. But that did not appease administrators, who placed him on a home suspension because he refused to cut his hair. 

The latest ruling means that Bradford will not “endure an unjust and educationally-damaging in-school suspension simply for having uncut locs, which are an immutable part of his Black identity and cultural heritage,” said Janai Nelson, NAACP Legal Defense Fund associate director-counsel. 

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Arnold gained national attention when he was told he would not be able to walk at his graduation if he did not cut his hair. The teen was invited to join filmmaker, Matthew A. Cherry, at the Academy Awards. Cherry’s short film, Hair Love, won the Oscar for Best Animated Short. 

In granting the injunction, Judge Hanks ruled that Bradford “has shown a substantial likelihood that his rights under the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment will be violated if his motion for a preliminary injunction is denied, and he has additionally shown that he will receive either inferior instruction or no instruction if his motion is denied.”

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