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Texas school district ends policy previously requiring boys to have short hair

 Magnolia ISD’s policy prohibits male students from wearing long hair.
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Magnolia ISD’s policy prohibited male students from having long hair.

A Texas school district has ended its hair policy that previously required boys to have short hair. The school board for Magnolia ISD in the greater Houston area voted to reverse the policy Monday night.

At the start of the school year, Magnolia ISD suspended several students for having long hair, barring them from attending regular classes and extracurricular activities. Three were later expelled.

In October, the ACLU of Texas joined others in filing a federal lawsuit challenging the policy on behalf of six boys and one non-binary student. The lawsuit included those who were expelled and suspended.

The U.S. Court for the Southern District of Texas later blocked Magnolia ISD’s hair policy from being enforced, stating that it was likely unconstitutional.

The school district later reached a settlement agreement with all involved, allowing those expelled and suspended to be able to return to school without fear of being punished for their long hair. Their disciplinary records related to the hair policy were also expunged, and Magnolia ISD agreed to make its dress code gender-neutral.

With the school board’s vote Monday night to formally change its previous hair policy, Danielle Miller said she’s relieved. She’s the mother of the 11-year-old non-binary student who was suspended.

"I told my child that I would not stop fighting for their right to fully be themselves at school,” said Miller in a statement. "We are both feeling relief today with the school board’s decision to stop discriminating against students based on gender. Our community never gave up fighting to put an end to this harmful policy.”

While the ACLU is also celebrating the school board’s decision, the group’s attorney Brian Klosterboer said this should have never gotten to this point.

“Students and families in Magnolia ISD have fought hard for this victory and can finally celebrate that the district’s dress code will no longer punish students based solely on gender,” he said in a statement. “But this lawsuit should never have needed to be filed. Dress codes that discriminate against students have no place in our public schools and plainly violate the U.S. Constitution and federal law.”

Since the federal ruling, Klosterboer said more districts are now starting to update similar policies, which he called “outdated and unlawful.”

“We are heartened that they understand how vital it is that no school district subject students to dress codes that impose gender stereotypes,” he added.

Last year, the ACLU sent a letter to 477 school districts, including Magnolia ISD, calling on them to change their dress and grooming policies.

They cited another case involving DeAndre Arnold and Barbers Hill ISD. Arnold gained national attention last year when he was told the length of his dreadlocks violated the school district’s policy.

At the time, Arnold said he was told to cut his hair or face suspension, and that he wouldn’t be allowed to walk in his high school graduation in Mont Belvieu. His cousin Kaden Bradford also faced similar disciplinary action.

Last year, a federal judge in that case ruled Barbers Hill’s hair policy was discriminatory. Earlier this year the case still appeared to be moving through the courts, with even the U.S. Justice Department stepping in.

Meanwhile, according to Barbers Hill ISD’s website, the school district’s hair policy is still in place. It states, “boy’s hair will not extend below the eyebrows, below the ear lobes, or below the top of a t-shirt collar.”

Copyright 2021 The Texas Newsroom.

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