Parents fume after O’Gorman High School asks Black student, 14, to CHOP OFF dreadlocks or find NEW school
SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA: A Black student at a Catholic South Dakota school will have to leave the school after administrators gave him an ultimatum to cut his hair, which he wears in dreadlocks, stating that his current hairstyle is "violating" the current school uniform regulations.
Braxton Schafer, a 14-year-old freshman at O’Gorman High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and his mother were told by the assistant principal of the school that he either must chop off his dreadlock hair or attend another school, Dakota News Now reported. Joan Mahoney, the assistant principal of the school, raised the issue with Braxton’s mother Toni Schafer at the school's open house and said O'Gorman's policy is that boys' hair cannot be "touching the collar."
Toni, who adopted Braxton when he was a newborn baby, said this is the first time when the school system has raised concern regarding Braxton’s hairstyle. As a student at O’Gorman Junior High, he donned the same hairstyle but no one ever raised any issue with his style. "Their reason for him cutting his hair had nothing to do with the policy. He's always been an outsider," she said.
Calling the school’s dress code unfair, Toni and her husband Derrick Schafer then approached the principal of the school to discuss the matter and why Braxton can’t chop off his dreadlocks. She wrote an email to the principal in which she explained Braxton’s dreadlocks have cultural and spiritual significance and he can’t cut them as he needs long hair to "make a spiritual crown." "The important part of that cultural piece is the length of the lock, not the actual lock itself," she said.
"Strength, pride, and a part of him," the mother said of the dreadlocks, adding, "A piece of him that we won't understand and most people in South Dakota don't understand."
Responding to the matter, Kyle Groos, president of O'Gorman Catholic Schools, said "We'd love to have Braxton in our school, without a doubt, he's a great young man." But he also said they cannot change the policy until at least 2023. "That is what the dress code is at this moment. Could that change when we review it here in the spring of 2023 and into the fall? It might. I don't know at this moment," he said.
The school administration held a meeting on Friday, September 2, 2022, with Toni and Derrick to discuss the concerns over Braxton, who is a member of the school’s marching band and football team. As a result of the meeting, the administration said that Braxton has to chop off his hair as even if he tied his dreadlocks, he still will be violating the school regulation. However, the administration didn’t mention anything about expelling Braxton but Toni feels that they alluded to the possibility that Braxton would be forced to leave the school because of his hair.
Reacting to Toni’s claim, a spokesperson for the school administration scarped the allegations that the school is implying any kind of force on Braxton to leave the school. "Despite representations to the contrary, at no time did school administrators tell the parents that if the student did not cut his hair, he would have to leave or be expelled. The meeting with the parents ended with the understanding that further dialogue would occur in the hope of finding a resolution that would allow the student to remain at our school," they insisted.
However, the school administration eventually agreed to let Braxton complete the semester at the school with his current hairstyle as his hair had not been addressed in junior high school so he should be allowed to at least finish out the semester.