An 8-year-old Native American boy was reportedly forced to cut his hair to adhere to his elementary school’s hair policy despite having it grown out for cultural reasons, according to the Kansas American Civil Liberties Union.
Regarding the matter, the Kansas ACLU penned a letter on November 17 to Girard Unified School District and R.V. Haderlein Elementary School, condemning the school’s “discriminatory” hair policy. In the letter, they requested the school to “immediately grant [the unidentified student] an accommodation allowing him to wear his hair below his shoulders in accordance with his cultural and religious traditions.”
‘Wyandotte men cut their hair only when they are mourning the loss of a loved one’
The letter also specified that the unnamed child is a member of the Wyandotte Nation, a federally recognized Native American tribe located in Oklahoma.
“For spiritual and cultural reasons, many Wyandotte men cut their hair only when mourning the loss of a loved one,” the group mentioned. “After seeing other male members wear their hair long last summer at the Nation’s annual Gathering of the Little Tutles,’ [the boy] was inspired to adopt the same religious and cultural practice.”
As per the letter, in August, school officials instructed the 8-year-old to cut his hair to adhere to the “Boy’s Hair Length” policy which mandates that boys’ hair “not touch the collar of a crew neck t-shirt, cover the eyebrows, or extend below the earlobes.”
The boy’s mother requested an exemption
In September, the boy’s mother, who has also not been named, visited the school to seek an exemption for her son based on his “Native American heritage and spiritual beliefs,” as stated in the letter. Despite offering to provide tribal documentation, she was reportedly informed that there were “no exemptions for the hair policy.”
Moreover, in an email sent to the mother on September 22, the assistant principal conveyed that a teacher had “asked that his hair be cut by Monday or he will be sent home.” Based on that email, the mom feared her son would “ultimately be suspended” if she didn’t comply with the school’s hair policy. Worried about the consequences and unable to reach the school, she reportedly cut her son’s hair in September. This decision “distressed” the boy, as per Kansas ACLU.
The school district is considering an update on the dress code policy
In an email to CNN, the superintendent stated that the school district would conduct a review of the policy.
“Nothing matters more to the USD 248 district and staff than creating a safe, respectful and caring school for every student. I am unable to comment on individual students, families or employees, due to confidentiality laws,” Ferguson stated. “I can share that the USD 248 Board of Education is planning to review and consider updates to the dress code policy when they meet on December 14th.”
The ACLU stated that the school’s policy goes against the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, the U.S. Constitution, Title IX, and Title VI.
“Requiring him to cut his hair to attend school imposes a substantial burden on his faith practice because, in and of itself, it violates his religious beliefs, and because it also prevents him from wearing his hair long outside of school, including for religious rituals and events,” the letter mentioned, adding that it also encourages “rigid views of gender norms and roles” by imposing the requirement only on boys.