Texas School Official Allegedly Said Young Boy Must Cut His Hair or Identify as a Girl

A Texas woman claims the superintendent of her grandson’s school district gave her an ultimatum — either cut his hair or put him in a dress.

Randi Woodley told KETK that the Tatum Independent School District dress code is discriminating against African American boys. During a school board meeting on September 9, Woodley described an incident that took place in August 2018 during a Meet the Teacher meeting where a teacher said her grandson’s hair was a problem.

“I was told that I needed to see the principal, so I went to the principal’s office where she explained to me that my grandson’s hair was too long,” Woodley told the news station.

Woodley then met with the school district’s superintendent, Dr. J.P. Richardson, who told her she would have to cut her grandson's hair or make him wear a dress.

“He told me that I could either cut it, braid it, and pin it up, or put my grandson in a dress and send him to school, and when prompted my grandson must say he’s a girl,” Woodley told KETK.

Woodley, whose four-year-old grandson, Michael “Tink” Trimble attends Tatum Primary School, told CNN that Superintendent Richardson told her that the only students who are granted an exception to the dress code rule are transgender students. Trimble’s hair is only slightly below his shoulders.

"I did not understand why my grandson's ponytail is any different than a little girl's ponytail," Woodley said.

"And why is his ponytail more of a distraction than him in a dress? So I politely told him that from that day forward, I would get my grandson's hair braided. I would pin it up, but I would fight that dress code with everything in me."

The school dress code states that male student's hair cannot fall below the top of a T-shirt collar, and male students are prohibited from wearing "ponytails, ducktails, rat-tails, male bun, or puffballs,” according to CNN.

Tatum is not the only Black child in the school district who is facing discrimination over his hair. Kambry Cox, whose son, Kellan, attends kindergarten in the school district, told KETK that he came home one day after being told his dreadlocks could not be worn in a ponytail.

“With my son’s dreadlocks, sometimes they do fall in front of his face, so I felt it would be easier to put his hair up, but then that’s a problem,” Cox told the news station.

A petition has been launched to change the school dress code. As of September 17, the petition has over 8,000 signatures.

“When will the racial discrimination and injustice towards our sons, brothers, uncles, husbands, and friends stop?” the petition reads. “We need to be his voice. Please lend your signature to this petition to tell Tatum, Texas we will not be bullied into cutting his hair.”

There have been several incidents in the past year where Black boys and men have been discriminated against because of their hair. In March, Kerion Washington, 17, was denied a job from Six Flags Over Texas because of his dreadlocks. The human resources department at the theme park called Washington’s dreadlocks an “extreme hairstyle,” KXAS-TV previously reported. After Washington’s incident went viral, he received multiple job offers and was offered a modeling gig, The Dallas Morning News previously reported.

States are starting to ban hairstyle discrimination. In July, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act (CROWN Act), USA Today previously reported. The new law was the nation’s first to ban hair discrimination and protects people who wear hairstyles like Afros, dreadlocks, or cornrows to school or work. The bill was first introduced in April by Los Angeles Senator Holly J. Mitchell.

That same month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Assembly Bill 07797, which ensures that racial discrimination also includes “traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and protective hairstyles.”

“For much of our nation’s history, people of color — particularly women — have been marginalized and discriminated against simply because of their hair style or texture,” Cuomo said in a previous statement. “By signing this bill into law, we are taking an important step toward correcting that history and ensuring people of color are protected from all forms of discrimination.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.