Black student won’t cut his locs, will leave school instead

A Catholic high school in South Dakota gave the ninth-grader an ultimatum — cut your hair or leave.

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A Black teenager will leave his South Dakota Catholic high school rather than bow to the school system’s ultimatum that he cut his locs.

Braxton Schafer’s parents said they’ll find another school for their son rather than submit to a demand his father Derrick Schafer called “culturally biased,” the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported.

Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools officials told the newspaper they simply want Schafer, a 14-year-old high school freshman, to abide by district grooming rules that mandate hair length for male students must stay at or above the collar.  

Referring to locs, Toni Schafer said the length of them has significant meaning. “It’s not the actual loc itself; it’s the length, and the strength, spirituality and power, it’s all in the length.” (Source: Adobe Stock)

Schafer’s mother, Toni Schafer, called the situation “incredibly stressful” for her son. “He feels kind of like an outsider anyways, because when you’re one of very few (Black students), and I think he might be the only one there with locs, he’s devastated, basically.”

Black students have routinely faced discipline for their choice of hairstyle. 

Moreover, The Brookings Institution notes that Black students more often face discipline for “discretionary” dress code and hair violations. Brookings also notes that, overall, they receive discipline at four times the rate of white students. 

Examples include:

Umpires told a Black female softball player she had to remove the beads from her hair, or she couldn’t play. 

A Texas school told a Black teenager whose family is from Trinidad that he couldn’t walk at graduation if he didn’t cut his locs. 

Another Texas school suspended an 11-year-old boy for two weeks because he wore his hair in braids.

A photo in the Argus Leader shows Braxton Schafer’s locs slightly longer than shoulder length, which school policy does not permit. 

“We simply want the length of the hair to be at the collar or right above the collar,” Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools President Kyle Groos told the Argus Leader, equating hair length to being “clean, neat and well-cared for.”

The schools have asked about 20 male students to cut their hair to comply with the hair grooming policy, a system spokesperson told the Argus Leader.

Braxton Schafer has been a student in the Catholic school system since the sixth grade and has worn his hair in locs the past three years, the newspaper reported. His parents wonder why his hair length has now become an issue.

Toni Schafer said the length of locs has significant meaning. “It’s not the actual loc itself; it’s the length, and the strength, spirituality and power, it’s all in the length.”

After several meetings, school officials and the Schafers agreed that Braxton can keep his locs until the end of the semester, at which point his parents say he’ll transfer to another school, the Argus Leader reported.

“They’ve made it so we don’t have options,” Toni Schafer said.

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