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Federal Judge Says Needville Shouldn't Have Kept Long-Haired Native American Boy Out of School

Society & Culture  (tags: Indians, Native Americans, American Indians, Education, culture, society, freedoms, ethics, children, child, family, interesting, news, rights )

- 3410 days ago -
A federal judge ruled this week that the Needville Independent School District was wrong to keep a five-year-old Native American boy out of kindergarten because of his long hair...

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kat yazzie (400)
Friday January 23, 2009, 7:27 am

A federal judge ruled this week that the Needville Independent School District was wrong to keep a five-year-old Native American boy out of kindergarten because of his long hair.

"You stand up for something that you believe is wrong, and you let people know and it gets fixed," says Adriel Arocha's father Kenney, whose Apache heritage is the reason for Adriel's long hair. "It's good to know the system works."

The ruling comes from a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in October.

"Some families don't have the stamina the Arochas had to really follow through with this. I know of a couple kids that went ahead and cut their hair because the families decided that their children couldn't afford to be out of class for as long as it'd take to get resolution," says Lisa Graybill, legal director for the ACLU of Texas. "So we'll be reaching out to those folks and letting them know of this decision."

It's been six months since we first wrote about Adriel and his family's fight against the school district.

When the school ruled that the boy would have to cut his hair, Needville superintendent Curtis Rhodes told us, "It's no secret what our policy is: You'll cut your hair to the right point. You'll tuck in your shirt. You'll have a belt. There's a lot of school districts that have lost their discipline and all their beliefs. Needville's pretty tight about that, they're pretty tight about the traditions they have."

Kenney Arocha said, "I was three when my people were finally given the ability to express their religious beliefs. Here we are, 30 years later, and they want me to give it back. I don't feel like I can waver on this."

Adriel just wanted to go to school: "I don't know how to read. I've never gone to daycare, so I really want to go."

Stories on what happened since are here, here and

"It's a good decision for American Indians, but the precedent that it creates applies to kids whatever their religion. I think that point is kind of lost on folks," Graybill says. "The law that protects this kid's right to have his braids is the same law that protects all those other practices of religious freedom that transcend the particular religion that is at issue in this case."

Hair Balls left a message with Rhodes and the Needville school district, but we haven't heard back, and Graybill says the district hasn't indicated if the ruling will be appealed. Arocha hasn't heard anything from the school either, but he hopes the case is over and Adriel can move on.

"We try to explain to him on a level that he understands, and he's trying to understand it," Kenney Arocha says. "His understanding will only get better as time goes on."


Morgan Griffith (225)
Friday January 23, 2009, 7:33 am
It shouldn't have taken wasting a Federal judges time--common sense and common decency should have told them that. How do you think this child is going to feel about going to school now? I hope he feels strong and stands tall and straight but sometimes this is all it takes to beat a child down.

Past Member (0)
Friday January 23, 2009, 7:41 am
he is adorable..
I love his hair

Dalia H (1280)
Friday January 23, 2009, 7:49 am
Good Morning dearest Kat. Thanks for sharing.
Love, Black Dalia:)

Ester Hellen (228)
Friday January 23, 2009, 7:56 am
It is good to be different,don't let the society school or whatever get under your skin little boy!
Obama had to recall the red path/religion also in his speech.I was disappointed that he didn't mention it.


Ben O (171)
Friday January 23, 2009, 8:11 am
Jesus had long hair, did he not?

sue M (184)
Friday January 23, 2009, 8:17 am
Schools need to stay out of parents business. If a parent wants the kid to have long hair - that is their choice. Not the schools job. Perhaps if they left the parents to their responsibilities they may actually have time to actually teach!

Cute little boy- well done to the parents!
Thanks Kat

Past Member (0)
Friday January 23, 2009, 8:24 am
Noted thanks Kat.

Pamylle G (461)
Friday January 23, 2009, 9:50 am
As long as a child is cared for by the parents, such personal or tradtional expressions in appearance ought to be none of the school's business, I agree.

Bravo to Arocha for not giving in. Aba, you're right that a case like this is so obvious it shouldn't have taken up a Federal Judge's time !

Past Member (0)
Friday January 23, 2009, 10:13 am
They did that to my son too. But I had a talk with the school, and he always kept his long hair. When you think it changes it always comes up again. What a waste to have to go through the court system.

Past Member (0)
Friday January 23, 2009, 11:01 am
What a superficial,shallow,time-wasting reason to deprive a child of an education....Whining about the school's "tradition"....What about the traditions of others?Show a little respect and let the boy keep his hair.Ridiculous.

Linda B (71)
Friday January 23, 2009, 11:31 am
I agree with all the above statements.

Michael Owens (1647)
Friday January 23, 2009, 1:51 pm
I agree,lots of Persecution toward Native Americans needs to Stoped!

Sheryl G (360)
Friday January 23, 2009, 2:05 pm
Thankfully my son was allowed to keep his hair long where we lived in Massachusetts and did so until the age of 12. Then he asked if he could cut it for his own reasons, we felt he was old enough at that point and his reasons why were his own and not someone elses. Then when he was 15 he wanted his hair long again so grew it out once more, his High School photo, taken in Maine where we lived then, shows him with his long dark locks. I'm so glad we did not have to go through that but neither should that family. I'm glad the Federal Judge did the proper ruling, I'd like to think this is behind us, but this seems to go on and on. Proper dress code is one thing, no pants down around your rear end and a neckline on a blouse that is reasonable is one thing, that I can accept.

Barbara T (431)
Friday January 23, 2009, 2:34 pm
That a child was kept out of KINDERGARTEN.....! What, he's going to CORRUPT THE OTHER KIDS? The wee ones will start wearing gang colors because of this?

Apparently this is because of RELIGIOUS BELIEFS of his family. All the more disgusting that this was an issue!
Neatness could be an issue in school; but long hair can also be "neat" and in the picture the kid's hair certainly is controlled and attractive.

Mary D (64)
Friday January 23, 2009, 4:22 pm
I thought we'd long since gone beyond the need to control how others wear their hair. As long as it's neat and clean, whose business is it? I'm waiting for the day when a Federal judge insists that a kid with a buzz cut has to let HIS hair grow out! Hah!

Jhn Wzt (3)
Friday January 23, 2009, 5:09 pm
most stoopid thing ive ever heard of dont they have better things to do?
guess he was "to dangerous" for the other kids since he didnt go with the flow :)

Henry P (171)
Friday January 23, 2009, 5:54 pm
Thanks Kat.

Roseann d (178)
Friday January 23, 2009, 6:38 pm
The schools should be welcoming the diversity and cultural's what America is about after all. Besides, they shouldn't be telling Native Americans how they should dress or be disrespectful of their cultural traditions. We could learn a lot from them.

Kathy Chadwell (354)
Friday January 23, 2009, 7:45 pm
And I still don't see the problem.
As long as the hair is clean, what's the problem?
There were no problems in the 70's at schools, & lots of guys wore their hair long back then.

Mena V (72)
Saturday January 24, 2009, 2:40 am
JESUS had long hair. Did they forgot?????

Feeby C (4)
Saturday January 24, 2009, 3:18 am
My husband is Native American and he has the most beautiful long hair I have ever seen. I think I would cry if he had to cut it off, but that's not the point. He's kept it long for much of his life because of his heritage- soon though we are worried he may have to cut it for employment purposes. It's not like he's going to work at a restaurant where long hair could be a problem, he's going to be an accountant. I don't think it's right that people can discriminate on hair length especially if the hair is well kept.

What this child and his family had to go through is just wrong. I hope more families in similar situations stick up for themselves as this one has. It keeps our world moving forward and evolving from old ways and perceptions.

Winefred M (88)
Saturday January 24, 2009, 5:59 am
I agree entirely with all the above.

Past Member (0)
Saturday January 24, 2009, 8:38 am
They did the same to other's too. One for a bolo, another for his eagle feather at graduation. I never hear anything about kids with Sari's, dots, Mennenites with long dresses and brethern with their straw hats. Agreed some go to their own schools, but others aren't that lucky. Public schools need to get off their HIGH HORSE and learn we are all individuals. Thats why in most schools there is a uniform.

Past Member (0)
Saturday January 24, 2009, 8:41 am
isnt a uniform sorry

Eternal Optimist (115)
Saturday January 24, 2009, 10:52 am
Kudos to Kenney Arocha and with a father like him, young Adriel will grow into a strong and dignified man like his father. All my best wishes to Adriel and his family :)
Noted with thanks Kat :)

Dana R (2)
Monday January 26, 2009, 9:53 pm
It appears that it is less the students that need education. The school administration is where the most education is needed. Kindergarten would appear the place for them to start.

Charles D. J (11)
Tuesday February 3, 2009, 5:26 pm
As a retired classroom teacher, I can't imagine anything being less of a hindrance to learning than the length of a child's hair. What kind of nincompoops does that school board have as its members?!

Pat B (356)
Friday February 20, 2009, 7:13 pm
I agree with the above comments as well. Hair issues at our school are non-existent, as we mentor, teach, and respect all cultures of our students. As should be. Noted, and thank you, Kat, for this info.

Jennifer A (1)
Sunday December 9, 2012, 1:33 pm
This is really dumb, it's part of their heritage so they shouldn't be forced to cut their hair. In all honesty, how does a boy having long hair really hurt anyone except for the child? My boyfriend went through the same thing only he cut his hair and was then exiled from the Apache community because he didn't honor their traditions.

Joel R (1)
Thursday December 13, 2012, 9:42 pm
that is ignorance at it's best, who cares if the boy has long hair honestly! diversity is what makes the world go round, we shouldn't all look and act the same or even believe the same it is in our nature to be different! oh btw, great article :)

Chrissie H (23)
Friday January 4, 2013, 11:53 am
A good article,glad common sense won through,it's just a pity that it had to be decided by a federal judge.

Shailja Mukhtyar (90)
Saturday October 5, 2013, 11:55 pm
Let him & dozens of other Long Haired AmerIndian kids wear the braids with pride!!
Discipline / expelling is for misbehaving, not respecting parents, seniors, heritage, & culture!!


Franshisca Dearmas (89)
Thursday October 24, 2013, 3:03 am
Noted. TY Kat
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