A Louisiana teen has been placed on indefinite suspension for refusing to cut his hair.
The boy was sent home from South Plaquemines High School when classes resumed Aug. 8 because his dreadlocks extended beyond the collar of his shirt, a violation of the school’s dress code.
The ACLU of Louisiana has taken on the case.
After he returned to school the following week with his hair pinned up, school officials told the student his dreadlocks remained in violation.
Rastafarians believe Leviticus 21:5 forbids them to cut their hair, and dreadlocks are central to their religious beliefs.
“The wearing of dreadlocks for (the student) is akin to the wearing of a religious icon by another student,” the ACLU said in a letter sent Monday to the Plaquemines Parish School Board.
The student’s mother provided a letter to the school from the 1st Church of Rastafar I that indicated the boy’s family were members.
It also explained the significance of dreadlocks to the Rastafarian faith, but the school’s superintendent told her that the information was not sufficient enough to let the boy to attend.
When she asked what documentation was required, he told her that he was not a lawyer.
The school has not formally suspended the student, but he has missed 10 of the first 11 days of the school year over his hair. The ACLU said the school had violated the student’s constitutional rights, as well as Louisiana’s Preservation of Religious Freedom Act.
The ACLU will seek a formal hearing to request a dress code exemption for the teen and a reversal of any disciplinary action taken against him related to his hair.
Rastafarian children in the state were given a mild exemption from school dress codes under a 2000 court settlement that was approved by the Lafayette Parish School Board.
This seems like a clear case of religious discrimination. What do you think?
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