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Education

Houston-area school district agrees to pause enforcement of hair policy for boys and nonbinary students

empty desks lined up in a classroom
Tiffany Szerpicki

Magnolia ISD on Thursday agreed to pause the enforcement of gender-specific dress code regulations for all students in the district, including a policy that prohibits boys — and not girls — from wearing long hair.

The Houston-area district will now allow all boys and nonbinary students to wear their hair longer than the “bottom of (their) ear” and to fashion their hair in a “ponytail or bun” without fear of punishment, according to court documents.

“This issue should have been swiftly corrected without the need for litigation, and the school board should end it by permanently changing this outdated and unconstitutional policy," said Brian Klosterboer, an ACLU attorney. “Dress codes that discriminate against students have no place in our society.”

Magnolias ISD previously punished students for not complying with the long-hair policy, eventually leading seven students to allege gender discrimination in a federal lawsuit filed against the district last month.

According to the lawsuit, the students were denied classroom instruction, barred from extracurricular activities, and in some cases, suspended and separated from their peers for over a month.

The lawsuit alleges that the policy violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits the discrimination of students on the basis of gender.

Last week, a federal judge temporarily blocked the policy for four of the seven plaintiffs who had been forced out of school after refusing to cut their hair, allowing them to return to the classroom while keeping their hair intact. The remaining three students decided to cut their hair in order to avoid punishment, according to the court documents.

Magnolia ISD's executive director of communications declined to comment.

Copyright 2021 Houston Public Media News 88.7. To see more, visit Houston Public Media News 88.7.

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