But Williams’ locks became a problem after the 17-year-old moved from Cincinnati, Ohio, to East Bernard, 50 miles outside of Houston, Texas, in February. His new school’s dress code policy stated that “no braided hair or cornrows would be allowed,” a policy that went against his sense of self.
“Once you cut that hair off, you cut your streak off your ancestors, you cut off your lineage, you cut off everything,” said Williams’ mother, Desiree Bullock. “And that’s not an option… We don’t consider them arrogant because we don’t fear them but we love them.”
The school’s student handbook, where the district’s hair policy is spelled out, states that “a boy’s hair may not extend below the eyebrows, below the top of the ears, or below the collar of a traditional shirt, and shall be no longer than an inch. the above “.
Bullock told CNN that making Williams change hairstyles to comply with the policy is not an option for either.
CNN has obtained a copy of the brochure, which has been removed from the county’s website. The brochure states, “This includes, but is not limited to, long hair styles, side bangs styles, and long hair hanging over the shaved sides or the back of the head. This also includes mullets and mullets in its making. Braided hair or cornrows rows will not be permitted. No Overdo the hairstyles.”
CNN made several attempts to reach East Bernard High School and East Bernard Independent School of Education for comment but received no response.
Bullock had hoped that after meeting Williams in person, the school would allow some exemption from the policy, but the school administration had just referred them to the Student Handbook of Dress Code Policy.
She then applied for a religious exemption on her son’s behalf with the district administrator, but it was denied.
“My request for exemption has not been granted at this time,” Courtney Hodgins, principal of East Barnard Independent School, said in an email response to Bullock. “Assuming that children can meet the dress code requirements, as well as all the paperwork needed to register, they are welcome to register with the District Registrar. Please contact the Registrar to schedule an appointment to register. If you have any specific questions regarding the dress code, please contact the Campus Administrator.”
Bullock responded asking for clarification on how the district came to its decision, but she did not hear back.
“East Bernard ISD’s hair policy is deeply discriminatory and needs to change,” Brian Closterbur, an attorney for the Texas ACLU told CNN in a statement. “The policy includes explicit gender discrimination that recent court decisions have found unconstitutional and violates Article 9, and it explicitly prohibits “braided hair or twisted rows/threads,” which are agents of racial discrimination and disproportionately harm black students in a district.”
“I feel really sick to my stomach,” she said. “I feel like[the region’s poetry policy]needs to change, I feel it’s horrible and I feel it’s only about African American kids or people.”
Bullock said Williams is entering his junior year of high school, a pivotal year for many high school students in the wake of college prep, feeling bad that he misses opportunities to run on the track and is noticed by scouts for college scholarships.
Poetry discrimination extends in schools across the country
The bill now heads to the Senate, where Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey is sponsoring the Chamber’s version of the bill.