Parents of students in Tatum, Texas, are infuriated over a dress code that they say discriminates against Black boys.
Gathered at a Tatum Independent School District board meeting Monday, Sept. 9, parents of young Black male students in the district shared their stories of how they say the rules for how their learners are able to dress are biased.
Randi Woodley is the grandmother of 4-year-old boy Michael Trimble, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. Woodley has had custody of him since he was 4 months old, according to KETK. She claims that when she and her grandson, who is enrolled in the district’s Head Start program, attended a Meet the Teacher meeting on August 12, she was informed that there was an issue with his hair.
“I was told that I needed to see the principal,” Woodley, who initially discussed the issue on Facebook in August, tells the local NBC station. “So I went to the principal’s office, where she explained to me that my grandson’s hair was too long.”
Woodley said she was given three options for what she could do about the boy’s tresses by the principal, who was not named. Woodley then met with the superintendent, J.P. Richardson, the Longview News-Journal reported.
“He told me that I could either cut it, braid it and pin it up, or put my grandson in a dress and send him to school, and when prompted my grandson must say he’s a girl,” Woodley alleged on Monday during the board meeting.
The grandmother addressed the problems she has with the district-wide dress code.
“Student’s hair shall be clean and well groomed at all times and shall not obstruct vision,” the 2019-2020 dress code reads. “No extreme style or color (neon,etc…) Only natural hair color shall be allowed. No symbols, letters, or extreme designs cut in the hair shall be permitted. No ponytails, ducktails, rat-tails, male bun or puffballs shall be allowed on male students. ALL male hair of any type SHALL NOT extend below the top of a t-shirt collar , as it lays naturally.”
“I will be here at every board meeting. I will fight to get all the rules changed,” Woodley said at the meeting.
And she is not alone in her fight. Fellow ISD parent Kambry Cox explained her son, who wears his hair in locs, also faced an issue with his hair because of the dress code.
“My son came home, saying ‘Mom, I think there’s something wrong with my hair,’” Cox says of her son, Kellan, who is in kindergarten. “With my son’s dreadlocks, sometimes they do fall in front of his face, so I felt it would be easier to put his hair up, but then that’s a problem.”
Others at the meeting also spoke out against the policy.
A teacher remarked, “I would just ask that you would consider updating it perhaps,” according to CBS 19.
One student’s family member remarked, “To tell an African-American how to wear their hair is wrong.”
Several local media outlets reported the next school board meeting is scheduled for October. It is not clear whether or not board members will discuss amending the dress code policy that troubles many parents, however.
Meanwhile, the Tatum ISD has yet to issue a statement regarding the parents’ issue with the rules of dress. However, the public has been vocal on the district’s Facebook page about how they believe the policy is discriminatory.
“Racism has no place in any education system. To try and control natural hair that has no actual effect on education or the learning process is absurd. The only reason hair is an issue is because the school, district, board and superintendent decided to make it one!”
“racist dress code? really Texas what year is it? I wouldn’t send my child to a school that think hair is relevant to education.”
A Change.org petition has been launched to “tell Tatum, Texas we will not be bullied into cutting” young Michael’s hair. It has less than 500 more names to collect before reaching its 5,000 signature goal.