After his family filed a lawsuit back in May, a Texas federal judge has ruled in favor of a Black teenager who had been told to cut his locs or he wouldn’t be able to attend school.
According to a report from NBC News, U.S. District Court Judge George C. Hanks Jr. issued an injunction on Monday evening allowing 16-year-old Kaden Bradford (seen above in a January KREM news report) to attend school without facing suspension for his hair.
A racist grooming policy implemented at Barbers Hill Independent School District resulted in the suspension of Bradford and his cousin DeAndre Arnold earlier this year. Bradford’s family faced the choice of permanent in-school suspension or changing their son’s school over the policy prohibiting male-identifying students from having hair that goes "below the top of a t-shirt collar, below the eyebrows, or below the ear lobes.” In July, the BHISD’s board of trustees decided unanimously to maintain the policy.
"Black students are and have been disproportionately targeted and penalized for violating facially race-neutral grooming policies that are designed to, and have the effect of, profiling, singling out, and burdening Black children for wearing their hair in its natural state," the family’s original complaint reads. "These grooming policies ultimately present Black students with an unfair choice: either wear their hair in natural formations and be deprived of adequate educational resources or conform their hair to predominant Eurocentric hair aesthetics to receive the same educational opportunities as their white peers."
Both Bradford and Arnold have worn their hair in dreadlocks for years. Arnold attended school in the district his entire life, but his hair gave administrators cause to prevent the senior from going to his prom or walking in his high school graduation after the policy was updated in December 2019.
The ruling from Judge Hanks found that Bradford “has shown a substantial likelihood that his rights under the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment will be violated if his motion for a preliminary injunction is denied, and he has additionally shown that he will receive either inferior instruction or no instruction if his motion is denied.”
The case is still ongoing, but this ruling is encouraging for the family, who is being represented by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
“We are pleased with the court’s decision, as it means that K.B. is no longer being deprived of an equal education simply for existing as his full self,” Mahogane Reed, an LDF Fellow, said in a statement. “It is especially critical that we do not close the schoolhouse door to children of color, who already endure countless hurdles in their quest to get an education because their physical appearance does not meet some arbitrary standard of acceptability.”