A Sioux Falls high school told a Black freshman’s parents that he must cut his dreadlocks or leave the school.
Braxton Schafer, a 14-year-old at O’Gorman High School, will be transferring after he and his parents refused to comply with a uniform code that says boys’ hair length should be above the collar, according to Yahoo News.
His dad, Derrick Schafer, said he and his wife Toni think the rule is “culturally biased.”
“The problem is, it’s being arbitrarily applied,” said the father. “He’s been in the system for three years with the same length hair. We’re confused on why it’s become an issue now. Why? They’ve had plenty of chances to discuss it with us.”
O’Gorman Catholic Schools president Kyle Groos said the policy dictates the length of students’ hair, not the style or culture, noting the school asks for hair “to be clean, neat and well-cared for.”
“Obviously, some people may or may not agree with (the policy),” Groos added. “But as for us as a Catholic school, we have our expectations as parents when they enroll, understanding what our handbook and what it expresses on dress code. It’s not like it hasn’t been reviewed.”
Though the policy called for Braxton’s locs to be shortened, his mother said what makes locs significant are their length.
“It’s not the actual loc itself; it’s the length, and the strength, spirituality and power, it’s all in the length,” she said, who referenced the biblical story of Samson to the administrators, a man whose seven locs were said to be the source of his power and strength, and his commitment to the Lord.
For Braxton, the situation has been a challenge.
“It’s incredibly stressful, and he feels kind of like an outsider anyways, because when you’re one of very few (Black students), and I think he might be the only one there with locs, he’s devastated, basically,” said the mother. “He wanted to stay because he likes his friends.”