Pearland ISD has announced changes to its dress code amid criticism of the district’s confrontation of minority students over their hair style and headwear.
The dress code announced Thursday for the 2019-20 school year removes restrictions on “hair styles and carvings,” but says distracting colors remain prohibited. The policy says head coverings such as hats, caps, bandanas and hair rollers remain banned, but that “exceptions will be made for religious headwear.”
The new code is based on meetings of what the district called a “diverse” committee composed of principals, educators and parents.
“The committee and administration sought to simplify the current dress code, provide more versatility, and identify and remove any perceived racial, cultural and religious insensitivities,” the district said in a statement.
The dress code goes on to state blouses, shirts or dresses may be solid or multi-colored, and include stripes, plaids or multi-prints; campus spirit shirts may include college or pro sports teams; and that jeans “may be distressed, but not to the extent that skin is showing.”
The announcement comes after some Pearland ISD families demanded that a committee be formed to represent diverse perspectives of the district, with half of the members being students, according to a news release from parents. They also have requested cultural sensitivity training, as well as data on the demographics of student punishment and student enrollment in various academic programs.
In April, Juelz Trice, a seventh-grade African American student, showed up to Berry Miller Junior High School with a new buzz cut featuring a design in it.
The then-assistant principal, Tony Barcelona, told Trice that the design in his haircut was against the school dress code because it was distracting, Trice’s mother Angela Washington wrote in a Facebook post.
Washington told the Houston Chronicle last month that had she and her son’s father known that Trice’s haircut was against the dress code, they would have taken him back to the barber.
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At the time, the school district put out a statement condemning Barcelona’s actions and said he was placed on administrative leave. Before the incident took place, Barcelona had been chosen to be the school’s next principal.
Also in April, Hadiya Henderson, an African American freshman at Dawson High School who wears the hijab, was instructed by an assistant principal to get a note from her imam confirming she is wearing her headscarf for religious reasons, the parents’ press release said.
Henderson’s mother said her daughter, an African-American freshman at Dawson High School, had worn her hijab since the fourth grade “and we have never had a problem.”
The dress code for the current school year says that students are not allowed to cover their heads, wear caps, hats or hair rollers inside the building. It does not mention anything about religious exemptions.
In both cases, the parents assert that school district administrators have been extremely unresponsive to their concerns.
Pearland ISD officials did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
Charles Gooden Jr., a Pearland ISD trustee, wrote on Facebook on May 14 that in response to the incident with Trice, the school administration asked the dress code committee to re-examine the code for any culturally insensitive or out-of-date policies. He added that the administration is looking to possibly expand diversity training, and establish “a committee of minority district leaders to look at issues around diversity and sensitivity.”
“It’s no secret that racism, whether intentional or not, has crept into the code,” Trustee Mike Floyd wrote on Facebook afterward. “The administration has made it clear that they are aware of the Board’s stance that provisions which are rooted in cultural or racial inequalities must be changed, and anything less will be unacceptable in my opinion.”