Texas school district sued over policy preventing boys from keeping long hair
A Houston-area school district is facing a new lawsuit alleging it enforced a gender-based dress code policy that has led to disciplinary action against several pupils with long hair. The lawsuit was filed in federal district court Thursday morning, October 21, by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas on behalf of six boys and a "non-binary" student aged 7 to 17.
According to the lawsuit, the Magnolia Independent School District dress code policy violates the Constitution as its gender-specific requirements "imposed immense and irreparable harm" on the students and were based on gender stereotypes. Some of the students filing the suit claim to have had long hair for years while attending school in the district without facing any consequences. Furthermore, the suit also claims administrators applied the policy unevenly, with some students not facing repercussions as they were in high school football teams, etc.
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In a statement provided to The Washington Post, Brian Klosterboer, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Texas, said the organization had "warned the district repeatedly that its gender-based hair policy violates the Constitution, but the district continues to derail students' lives and deny their right to a public education free from discrimination."
Plaintiffs claim to have been threatened with in-school suspension for weeks at a time and some were even placed in a "disciplinary alternative education program," per the suit. According to the guidelines in Magnolia ISD’s 2021-22 student handbook, hair must "be no longer than the bottom of a dress shirt collar, bottom of the ear, and out of the eyes for male students." Hair also cannot "be pinned up in any fashion" or "worn in a ponytail or bun for male students."
Despite repeated requests to end @MagnoliaISD’s discriminatory gender-based hair policy, administrators continue to severely punish students like our clients simply for wearing long hair.— ACLU of Texas (@ACLUTx) October 21, 2021
This is unconstitutional.
We’ll see them in court. https://t.co/P9ObCXSBQI
Danielle Miller, whose 11-year-old ward identifies as "non-binary" and is a plaintiff in the suit, told the Texas Tribune that she received a phone call from her child's school at the beginning of this school year informing her that her child would have to cut their hair. She said her child was "just in absolute devastation and tears" when told they would have to cut their hair. "... Based on [my child's] reaction and how harsh and traumatized they were, I realized that we weren't going to be cutting [their] hair," the mother-of-two added.
After failing to comply with the guidelines, Miller's child was given in-school suspension for nine days. The embattled parent said her child has had long hair for a couple of years and that it had never been an issue before. "I have no idea what changed," Miller said. "[The district is] not saying anything, they're not responding to anybody in the community about it." She argued that "no student should be forced to conform to gender stereotypes or have their education upended because of that student's gender. We will not be ignored nor go away quietly while our children are disciplined simply because of their gender."
In response to the suit, a district spokeswoman said they had heard from "a small group of parents" about the dress code concerns and were "currently in the process of considering parent grievances" on the issue. "Like hundreds of public school districts in Texas and across the country, MISD's rules for dress and grooming distinguish between male and female dress and grooming standards," said the spokeswoman, Denise Meyers said. "This system of differentiated dress and grooming standards have been affirmed by courts and does not inhibit equal access to educational opportunities under Title IX."