Black Teen Told to Cut His Locs by Texas School Wins Court Ruling

Kaden Bradford.Courtesy Cindy Bradford
By Janelle Griffith – Kaden Bradford and his cousin, DeAndre Arnold, 18, made national headlines in January after they said they were not allowed to return to class unless they cut their hair.
A federal judge in Texas has blocked a school district from enforcing a dress code policy that prohibited a Black teenager from keeping his locs.

Judge George C. Hanks Jr. of the U.S. District Court in Houston issued a preliminary injunction late Monday that will allow Kaden Bradford, 16, to start the school year with his locs and without being confined to in-school suspension

The ruling against the Barbers Hill Independent School District High in Mont Belvieu, about 30 miles east of Houston, means that Kaden does not have to “endure an unjust and educationally-damaging in-school suspension simply for having uncut locs, which are an immutable part of his Black identity and cultural heritage,” said Janai Nelson, NAACP Legal Defense Fund associate director-counsel, in a statement.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund represented Kaden in the request for the preliminary injunction. The firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld is also representing the teen pro bono.

Kaden Bradford
Kaden Bradford.Courtesy Cindy Bradford

Kaden and his cousin, DeAndre Arnold, 18, who also wears his hair in locs, made national headlines in January after they said they were told they would not be allowed to return to classes at Barbers Hill High School school unless they cut their hair. De’Andre graduated in May, but was prevented from participating in his graduation ceremony because he refused to cut his locs, his lawyers said.

The families sued, alleging that the the district’s policy on hair unconstitutionally discriminates on the basis of race and sex and violates students’ right to freedom of expression. The preliminary injunction comes in advance of a final ruling on the federal complaint.

Kaden “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 court ruling states.

Prior to the court decision, the school district intended to confine Kaden to indefinite in-school suspension and exclude him from school activities, such as the band program, unless he cut his locs, Nelson said.

A spokeswoman for the school district did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.

DeAndre’s story drew support from Ellen DeGeneres and Alicia Keys who surprised him with a $20,000 scholarship on “The Ellen Show.” He also attended the Oscars as a guest of Matthew Cherry, the director of “Hair Love,” and actress Gabrielle Union and her husband, retired NBA star Dwyane Wade. The couple were producers of the Academy Award-winning short film.

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