Louisiana high school students facing suspension over hairstyle

Published 04/01 2014 07:55PM

Updated 04/01 2014 07:58PM

BELLE CHASSE, La. —A school policy is under fire in Plaquemines Parish after five students are threatened with suspension.

The students at Belle Chasse High School were told Monday they must cut their hair or be suspended.

According to the districts student handbook, "moderate hairstyles only are permitted. Boys' hair may not extend lower than the dress shirt collar. Hair cannot be worn to fall below the brow line."

The mother of Frederick Smith, 17, a sophomore said she's concerned over the timing of the complaint and the motivation behind it.

"I'm all for the rules, I'm just wondering why they didn't enforce this policy from the beginning," Sayra Smith said.

Smiths' son has dreadlocks as do the four other boys facing suspensions. His hair barely scrapes the shirt collar but according to Smith she makes sure her son pins his hair back before he goes too school every morning.

"I'm mostly concerned this is going to get in the way of his studies," Smith said. "He's worried about getting suspended now when he should be worried about end of the year schoolwork."

Smith argues her son's hairstyle is common for young African-American males and she believes the policy should be revised or updated.

"This is how these boys wear their hair these days and they shouldn't be punished for it," said Smith.

Superintendent Denis Rousselle told WDSU the last thing he wants to do is suspend Smith and the other students but said the district needs to be consistent and enforce the policy.

According to a representative from the New Orleans branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) they have reviewed similar cases across Louisiana, but if it's not for religious or similar reasons students must obey that school's policies or face consequences.

Other area districts, including St. Tammany, Jefferson and New Orleans public schools have similar dress code policies in place.

Rousselle said they have no plans of revising the existing policy at this time.

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