Parents in the Pearland Independent School District, still upset by how an assistant principal dealt with an African-American junior high student whose haircut violated the district dress code, are planning to try to address PISD trustees at their regular meeting tonight on a wide range of concerns about the district's dress code.
Equally infuriating to critics was the fact that after briefly being placed on administrative leave, the assistant principal, Tony Barcelona, was reinstated and even promoted to the principal's position at the middle school.
But this is not the only incident that these parents hope to bring up to the committee tonight concerning the district's dress code. According to a statement released today by parent Dona Kim Murphey on behalf of parents and students, they want a policy that takes into account religious differences and includes community members in drawing it up. This was sparked in part by the case of a freshman at Dawson High School who was told she had to bring in a note saying she was wearing her hijab for religious reasons.
In the first case, seventh grader Juelz Trice, had a cutout in the haircut he'd recently received, something the school district considers a prohibited distraction. Barcelona instructed Trice to either color in the missing hair with a marker or report to in-school suspension. Trice chose the marker option and asked for help in filling in the cutout on his head, according to reports. His parents did not find out what happened until after he returned home from school that day.
The PISD dress code states that "Extreme hair styles such as carvings, mohawks, spikes, etc. are not allowed."The student handbook does not set out specific punishments for such as violation but, the district in a statement following the incident said that Barcelona's fill-in option was inappropriate.
In another case, Luciana Brady-Henderson, mother of Hadiya Henderson, a freshman at Dawson High School, is concerned with what she says is the lack of consideration given religious articles of clothing within the dress code.
In April, Henderson was stopped by an assistant principal and told to obtain a note from her imam to excuse the hijab she wears. This left both mother and daughter confused since Henderson has worn a hijab since the fourth grade and never before been stopped by faculty or coaches. The PISD dress code restricts the following head coverings to be worn: caps, hats, hoods, or head coverings. Regarding these violations, religious exceptions are nowhere to be found in the dress code policy or code of conduct— something Brady-Henderson is hoping to change.
"How hard is it to add, 'with the exception for religious reasons?' It’s not just about Muslims. Other people have religious reasons why they have some type of covering on their head. Why is it that they can't add that on?"
Brady-Henderson is still wondering who the assistant principal was after she failed to identify herself on the phone call regarding the incident. And according to her daughter, she didn't recognize the assistant principal either. The next week, on May 6, Brady-Henderson says she sent an email to the principal and hasn't received a response yet.
If given a chance to speak tonight, members of the group will demand that a "community center Dress Code Committee involving all interested parties (rather than one selected by district administration" be formed and that at least half of the committee sports be held by students. Also that cultural sensitivity training "be informed by public input," and that demographic records be kept on punishments handed out as well as for Gifted and Talented identification and enrollment in Advanced Placement courses.
Today's school board meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the administration building, 1928 Main in Pearland.
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