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Keep Houston Press Free
4

You're Facing The ACLU Now, Needville

Adriel Arocha

, the five-year-old boy who went to kindergarten in Needville despite his long hair, made it a week in class before he was put into In-School Suspension because his hair was too long. The ACLU filed a lawsuit today against the school district to stop the punishment.

"We regret that this child is sitting in In-School Suspension, but sacrificing his beliefs, and teaching him that who he is and what he believes is shameful, will be more harmful," Lisa Graybill, the legal director for the ACLU of Texas, tells Hair Balls.

Problems started this summer when Adriel's parents wanted to enroll him in school but were told that he would have to cut his hair because it violated Needville's dress code. A haircut wasn't an option because of his family's Native American beliefs. The district eventually agreed to allow Adriel to attend if he tucked his braids down the back of his shirt, and he went to school everyday but didn't hide the hair.

According to Graybill, only one other student has been in suspension since the start of school, and that student was punished to three days for threatening to shoot another kid.

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"We keep telling him that it's not because he's in trouble, it's for other reasons," says Kenney Arocha, Adriel's father.

The ACLU contacted the district yesterday to ask for a resolution without litigation, but officials at the school refused. The school is sending all questions to its attorney, Rhonda Crass, who couldn't be reached for comment.

Update: Kristin Foster, an associate at Crass' law firm, said they've received the lawsuit. "We fully anticipate the court to vindicate the district's decision in this regard," she told Hair Balls.

-- Paul Knight

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