Kansas School Demands Eight-Year-Old Native American Student Cut Hair to Attend ( nativenewsonline.net )

School administrators in Kansas this September violated an eight-year old Native American boy’s cultural and religious freedoms when they required him to cut his long hair to conform to school policy, according to the Kansas American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (ACLU).

The boy, a member of the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma, had been growing his hair for more than a year after seeing tribal men wear their hair long at the Nation’s annual gathering of the Little Turtles, according to the letter the ACLU sent Girard School District administrators on November 17. The boy was attending Haderlein Elementary School in Girard, Kansas.

The boy’s mother learned of the school’s “Boy’s hair length” policy in August 2023, and visited the school the following month to request an exemption for her son “because of his Native American heritage and spiritual beliefs,” according to the ACLU. The school’s policy forbids boys, but not girls, from wearing their hair long.

“Hair is not to touch the collar of a crew neck t-shirt, cover the eyebrows, or extend below the earlobes. Ponytails, rat tails, or any other style that would circumvent the policy are not permitted,” the policy reads. She was told there were no exemptions.

On September 23, 2023, Haderlein Elementary School Assistant Principal Joni Benso emailed the student’s mother, informing her that if her child’s hair was not cut by the following Monday, “he will be sent home.”

Neither Benso nor the school’s Principal, Tina Daniel, responded to Native News Online’s request for comment.

“Ultimately,” the letter reads, “to ensure that the student would be able to continue attending school, rather than being ‘sent home’ or facing other punishment, he was forced to cut his hair over the weekend of September 22, 2023.”

The Wyandotte Nation said in a statement to Native News Online that, while not directly involved, the nation is aware of the incident, and it harkens back to decades of cultural oppression against Indigenous peoples.

“This oppression has taken many forms including, but not limited to, the forced cutting of Native American men and boys’ hair in order to impose conformity with dominant white culture and to stifle long-held religious and traditional Native American practices and beliefs,” the Nation’s response, emailed from Chief Billy Friend, reads. “The apex of this oppressive tactic can be found during the tragic Indian boarding school era, when Native children were taken from their homes and communities, relocated to strange and distant boarding schools, and forcibly assimilated through, among other means, the cutting short of boys’ hair.”

Chief Friend added that long hair is a cultural tradition in his nation that hasn’t been practiced for the past several decades, “but many in our current generation have [begun] to practice once again.”

The ACLU asserted that Haderlein Elementary School’s policy and refusal to accommodate the student’s religious and cultural practices violates the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, the U.S. Constitution, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Girard Schools Superintendent Todd Ferguson responded to an email from Native News Online on Tuesday stating that: “Nothing matters more to the USD 248 district and staff than creating a safe, respectful and caring school for every student.”

Ferguson said he was unable to comment on individual students due to confidentiality, but that the Board of Education will review and consider updates to the dress code policy on December 14.

The Wyandotte Nation urged the Girard Schools Unified School District 248 in their statement to reconsider its policy governing boys’ hair length “in light of the unique history involving Native American children.”

“This is a culturally sensitive issue that brings to light historical traumas for many Tribal Nations, beyond our own,” the nation wrote.

In March 2022, a Native American student in the first-grade had his long hair forcibly cut off by two other students while attending school at Del City Elementary in Oklahoma, prompting an internal investigation. Last week, the UC Health Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, on Friday finally admitted that a hospital staff member cut the hair of 65-year-old Lakota elder Arthur Janis, without his or his family’s permission. On November 18, Native News Online’s publisher Levi Rickert wrote a column about the sacredness of hair to Native Americans.

“We hope that a respectful, culturally informed discourse between the family and the school representatives will ultimately lead to a workable resolution.”

link :nativenewsonline.net/…/kansas-school-demands-eigh…

Pratai ,

What is it with schools just begging to be sued lately?

SeaJ ,

So Jesus would not be allowed to attend this public school?

be_excellent_to_each_other ,
@be_excellent_to_each_other@kbin.social avatar

They'd be too busy dealing with their heads exploding when they saw the color of his skin to complain about his long hair.

FoundTheVegan ,
@FoundTheVegan@kbin.social avatar

Hair is a super important identity marker, for everyone! The army has uniform buzz cuts for a reason, and historically strictly enforced on to minorities, it's all about forced assimilation and control. Asking this child to get in line and look like the rest of the unit is specfically trying to rid him of his culture. Can't believe this shit is still occurring.

Uranium3006 ,
@Uranium3006@kbin.social avatar

The native American genocide never ended

nooneescapesthelaw ,

Calling this genocide dilutes the importance of the word

Landsharkgun ,

I feel like maybe you missed the parts of American history where the settlers killed all the Native Americans and took their land.

AnotherAttorney ,

Asking this child to get in line and look like the rest of the unit is specfically trying to rid him of his culture.

It’s a policy of general application. It doesn’t target him (or his culture) more than anyone else. The current state of First Amendment law pretty uniformly rejects the sort of challenge that the ACLU is mounting.

Uranium3006 ,
@Uranium3006@kbin.social avatar

Brb banning white people hairstyles specifically to piss them off

be_excellent_to_each_other , (edited )
@be_excellent_to_each_other@kbin.social avatar

Fairly positive outcome in this past example, though yes, it was settled. https://nebraskapublicmedia.org/en/news/news-articles/school-district-settles-native-american-hair-cutting-lawsuit/

The settlement includes nearly a quarter-million dollars in relief to the families as well as changes in school policies.

Your line of thinking is textbook defense of a lot of the Jim Crow laws surrounding "literacy tests" for voting and the like.

The policy may not target his culture more than anyone else, but it absolutely does impact his culture (or that of any group with a similarly nonconforming hair style as part of their culture) disproportionately.

And yes I see your username and accept it face value, and no, IANAL. Nonetheless, the "current state of First Amendment law" apparently has some problems (assuming you are correct), and I'm happy to see those being highlighted here.

On the surface I don't see how it's different than this, and I'm doubtful that's a singular example: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/black-teen-told-cut-his-locs-texas-school-wins-court-n1237095 But even if there is some distinction making that not an apt comparison, my opinion doesn't change.

As a side note regarding the case from OP, I've never understood how any hair restriction where this is true can stand up to legal challenge:

The school’s policy forbids boys, but not girls, from wearing their hair long.

TWeaK ,

This should be a slam dunk under Title II of the Civil Rights Act - not even because of the boy’s Native American heritage, but simply because he is a boy and the rule doesn’t apply to girls.

Edit: Lol I’m kind of disappointed that no one called me out on the fact that Title II only covers interstate commerce, and explicitly does not protect against sex. I mean, it was a genuine brain fart on my part, but still my upvotes keep going up and no one has even bothered to fact check me.

This would be illegal under the 14th Amendment, which states that all citizens, regardless of protected class, must be treated equally by the state.

AnotherAttorney ,

Doubt it. Public schools everywhere have generally applicable dress codes that differentiate between the two genders.

TWeaK ,

I was completely wrong about Title II, however the 14th Amendment requires that all citizens be treated equally by the state. Public schools are a part of the state (as are contractors to the state), and as such they must adhere to the 14th Amendment. Boys and girls must be treated equally.

Just because places have dress codes and haven’t been challenged does not make them legal.

HikingVet ,

Ah, so the religious exemptions are only for the crazy christians.

They are going to get a bloody asshole from the fucking that the ACLU is going to do. One: the rule is sexist, and two: it violates religious freedoms.

Can’t wait for them to remove the rule while figuring out how to sit again.

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