A student who attends South Plaquemines High School in Port Sulphur, Louisiana has been restricted from returning to the junior high school.
On Aug 8, the student entered the school building for the commencement of the 2014-2015 school year and was instructed to return home. According to school officials, the teen’s dreadlocks are in violation of South Plaquemines High School’s dress code. The dress code states, “1. Boys’ hair may not extend lower than the top of a school shirt collar. 2. Boys’ hair may not be pinned up, pulled back, or put in a ponytail.”
In an attempt to get the child’s “unlimited suspension” lifted, the teen’s mother provided a letter that indicated the family is devoted Rastafarians and are members of the 1st Church of Rastafar I. The letter also stated the church’s religious guidelines require males to grow locks and more specifically not to cut their locks. However, the superintendent was not moved. The letter was not adequate evidence for the school to allow the child to resume classes.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana (ACLU) has stepped in to negotiate the matter. The ACLU has penned an open letter to the Plaquemines Parish School Board stating:
“The wearing of dreadlocks for John Doe is akin to the wearing of a religious icon by another student. We would object if the school were to tell a Christian student they could not wear a cross or if it were to permit the wearing of religious icons of one faith and prohibited those of another faith. In discriminating against John Doe’s religious beliefs, the school is expressing a preference for certain religions, which is unacceptable. The school’s actions of prohibiting John Doe from attending school until he cuts his hair violates the Louisiana and United States Constitutions, in addition to Louisiana’s Preservation of Religious Freedom Act.”
The ACLU requests a formal hearing in hopes to get the teen exempted from the dress code and a reversal of any disciplinary action.
To read the full letter visit https://www.laaclu.org.