Indian boy wins right to wear braids

An American Indian boy can wear braids to school, despite his Texas school district’s grooming policy, a federal appeals court ruled today, upholding a lower court ruling. AP reports:

The 5-year-old boy’s parents, Kenney Arocha and Michelle Betenbaugh, argued their son, identified in court papers as A.A., has a constitutional right to wear a hairstyle that conforms to his Native American religious beliefs.

. . . The boy wears his 13-inch-long hair in two braids outside his shirt.

The Needville Independent School District south of Houston had argued its grooming policy, which requires short hair for boys, teaches hygiene, promotes discipline and avoids disruptions.

“We feel vindicated in our beliefs that no parents should be forced to choose between their religion and culture and a public education for their children,” Arocha and Betenbaugh said in a news release.

It’s hard to argue that long hair isn’t hygienic for boys but is perfectly OK for girls. On the other hand, Needville may need to protect A.A. from Boy Named Sue issues. Sikhs don’t cut their hair for religious reasons. Boys often wear their hair in a topknot under a loose turban — and they do get teased and sometimes bullied for looking different.

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  1. According to the ruling, the district stated its policy is intended “to teach hygiene, instill discipline, prevent disruption, avoid safety hazards, and assert authority.”

    I’m guessing that last reason accounts for about 99% of the real purpose.


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