Dress codes have become the norm in workplaces and schools, though the level of enforcement varies. Yes, the code has evolved over the past few decades due to rebellions and changing times, but they still stand.
And just because a school doesn’t have a uniform requirement, it doesn’t mean that freedom reigns. Kids are getting plucked from halls and classes for wearing clothing, jewelry, and hairstyles that do not conform to dress codes. School policy reigns.
It’s happening in parochial schools, private schools, and public schools. And as some students and parents are finding out, no one is exempt. Texas mom Jessica Oates is learning that the hard way. She doesn’t have a high-schooler who’s in trouble about her dress length. She has a preschooler who’s in hot water about his hair length.
Jessica’s 4-year-old son Jabez is not allowed to return to school unless he gets his long hair cut. She tells Inside Edition that he’s never received a haircut in his life and she feels like the school is unfairly targeting him. On the first day of school she was told that documentation would be required to support an exemption to the long hair rule.
On the second day, she was informed by the principal that they would not accept her documentation submission as the district does not recognize cultural or religious exemptions for long hair on males. On the third day, Jessica attempted to send Jabez to school with a man-bun secured in a hair-tie, but her son wasn’t allowed to attend.
Confused by what’s going on, the tot has been home ever since, as his mother battles the school district. According to the school’s dress code for pre-K up to fifth grade, boys cannot have hair that goes past their eyebrows, earlobes, or shirt collar. They do not permit ponytails on males, either.
Jabez sees his hair as part of his identity, and does not wish to cut it. In addition to loving the hair he’s had since birth, Jabez’s family is also Cocopah Indian, who view hair as a symbol of strength. Much of Jessica’s position rests on the hair policy being sexist, as girls do not have to conform to a certain length like the boys do. She also states that he’s entitled to a public education regardless of how his hair looks.
In response to all the media publicity, the Barbers Hill school district issued this statement:
“Ms. Oates has the right to place her child in a district that reflects her personal expectations for standards of appearance. There are procedures in place for addressing concerns over policy if it is Ms. Oates’ desire to have her son educated in Barbers Hill ISD. But we would and should justifiably be criticized if our district lessened its expectations or longstanding policies simply to appease.”
Watch the video to get a look at the little boy’s locks and to hear more about Jessica’s battle. Elsewhere in Texas, another mom is also fighting a school’s dress code over her 9-year-old son’s hair. That young man is growing his out to donate to a cancer wig charity, and for now their loophole is a long braid. Perhaps this mom will find one too?
What are your thoughts on Jabez’s predicament? What do you think about the world of school dress codes? Have you ever fought your school district over an unfair rule?