Once again, hairstyles are being weaponized to discipline children.
Maddox has a Black father and a white mother. Cozart said that Maddox and his siblings wanted to embrace their “African heritage” by adopting a braided hairstyle which is also similar to his father’s hairstyle.
“We try to teach our kids about all of their culture. Black, white, Native-American, everything,” the mother explained. “They like to explore their culture. We looked at African Tribes and how they braid their hair up. Bantu knots and all the meanings of all that.”
Yet, the Troy Independent School District was not as interested in this culture as the Cozart family. It decided that the style deviated from the accepted styles in the student handbook, which reads “4. In grades 2-12, hair: d. May not be worn in a ponytail, top knot, bun, or similar styles.” As a result, Maddox was sent to in-school suspension.
Cozart wasn’t pleased with the decision. She decided to hire an attorney to fight against what she believes to be discriminatory and outdated rules.
“I think that their dress code policies are outdated,” the family’s attorney, Waukeen McCoy, said. “There’s a lot of Texas independent school districts that have outdated policies which prevent male students from having ponytails, pigtails, buns. It has no legitimate basis at all. It has nothing to do with educating the students. Clearly, to me, it’s discriminatory to his race and his culture.”
Additionally, Cozart thinks that children should be able to express themselves especially as they mature through their pre-teenage years.
“Middle school is the hardest years for a lot of kids. For you to single them out because of their hair. That, that’s crazy. Kids should be able to express themselves and hair does not affect your education,” she said.
The district’s Superintendent Neil Jeter refused to speak about the child’s punishment with the media. Jeter did confirm that there would be a board meeting this upcoming Monday, but dress code rules and violations will not be a talking point.