Houston Texans star DeAndre Hopkins extended support to a high school senior from Mont Belvieu, Texas, on Twitter Wednesday after he was told by school officials that he wouldn’t be able to participate in graduation later this year if he didn’t cut his dreadlocks.
In a tweet directed to the student, 18-year-old DeAndre Arnold, the NFL wide receiver wrote: “Never cut your locks Deandre Arnold.”
Never cut your locks Deandre Arnold.— Deandre Hopkins (@DeAndreHopkins) January 22, 2020
His message of support comes after Arnold first captured widespread attention earlier this week following reports that he was told that he wouldn’t be able to walk during his graduation later this year if he didn’t cut his dreadlocks.
Arnold said in an interview with a local NBC station earlier this week that he refused to cut his hair, citing Trinidadian culture. As a result, he was reportedly placed on in-school suspension.
The Barbers Hill Independent School District (ISD), where Arnold attends, did not provide comment on the reported suspension, pointing to its policy on student confidentiality.
A spokesperson for the district did, however, confirm to The Hill on Tuesday that the teen was told he must cut his hair to a length that was in compliance with the school’s dress code in order to participate in his coming graduation.
“Barbers Hill ISD has a long standing dress code, but we absolutely allow dreadlocks. What we do not allow is any action that circumvents or violates the provision regarding hair length,” the representative said in a written statement to The Hill.
An online copy of the school district’s handbook also states that male students’ hair “must not extend below the top of a t-shirt collar” or “worn in a style that would allow the hair to extend below the top of a t-shirt collar, below the eyebrows, or below the ear lobes when let down.”
However, other local reports have said the policy was recently updated after Christmas break to include restrictions about male students’ hair length.
The policy prompted a wave of backlash from a number of local activists when the issue was addressed during a school board meeting Monday.
An activist with the United Urban Alumni Association, Gary Monroe, called the matter a “black and white issue," according to KHOU.
"DeAndre [and] his family should not have to go through this. But I expect it from a board that has zero diversity,” he added. He also accused the school of being in “violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as it pertains to religious beliefs.”
In the school districts’ statement pushing back against some of the criticism it received over the policy earlier this week, a spokesperson said that the “U.S. Constitution allows a school board the right to implement local community expectations, and Barbers Hill ISD’s continual academic and extra-curricular successes are a direct result of our communities’ high expectations.”
Arnold's mother has said the family is threatening legal action if the school doesn’t allow her son to walk in his graduation.
"They have 48 hours to come up with a resolution or we're taking this to federal court," she said.
The controversy comes a number of states across the country have passed legislation seeking to ban race-based hair discrimination in schools and workplaces.