It’s not unheard of for a school or office of business to have a dress code for its students and workers to follow. Having to follow particular guidelines when it comes to fashion is something that most people have had to succumb to. These rules involve more than just clothing, and people have to be cautious when it comes to jewelry, accessories, and hairstyles as well.
But, when is enough enough?
Just ask Texas mom Jessica Oates, as she has recently had to be on the receiving end of what she is calling discrimination regarding her son’s hair length.
Like most kids, Jabez Oates was excited to start his first day of preschool. The four-year-old got ready for school with a new backpack and new school clothes and even took the traditional photo in front of the first day of school sign.
It was a good day for Jabez and Jessica until the school contacted Jessica later that day. She was informed that she needed to proved documentation to support an exemption to the long hair rule. And if she didn’t make the documentation appear, then Jabez wouldn’t be welcomed back to school the next day.
When Jessica showed up to school the next day, with documentation, the district said that they would not accept her submission because they don’t recognize cultural or religious exemptions for long hair on males. Jessica was determined, so she showed up the third day having tied Jabez’s hair up in a bun, but that wouldn’t suffice either, and the principal refused to let the boy go to class.
The district shared that boys cannot have hair that goes beyond their eyebrows, earlobes, or shirt collar and ponytails aren’t permitted.
Seeing his hair as part of his identity, Jabez has no desire to cut it and his mom wants to abide by the boy’s wishes. His hair is something that he loves and hair is viewed as a symbol of strength according to the family’s heritage, which is Cocopah Indian. Jessica believes that her son is entitled to a public education regardless of the length of his hair and she will continue fighting the district.
In response to all the media publicity, the Barbers Hill school district issued this statement:
“Ms. Oates has the right to place her child in a district that reflects her personal expectations for standards of appearance. There are procedures in place for addressing concerns over policy if it is Ms. Oates’ desire to have her son educated in Barbers Hill ISD. But we would and should justifiably be criticized if our district lessened its expectations or longstanding policies simply to appease.”