Consider this your daily reminder that gender norms start long before puberty. In a suburb outside of Houston, Texas, a woman has claimed that her young son was banned from kindergarten for having long hair, a style which violates the school dress code — for boys, that is. Bustle has reached out to the Barber's Hill School District for comment and will update upon hearing back.
According to local news outlets, one boy's first semester of kindergarten took an unexpected turn when his mother, Jessica Oates, picked him up on Friday afternoon. Allegedly, school administrators told her that her son could not return to class until he chopped off his long locks. On Monday, she attempted to conform to the dress code by putting his hair in a bun using a black hair tie. According to the dress code available on the Barber's Hill School District website, boys in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade may not have hair extending "below the eyebrows, below the ear lobes, or below the top of a t-shirt collar." Theoretically, a bun meets these requirements. However, she told Chron.com that he was still barred from attending kindergarten until he cut his hair.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for the Barber's Hill School District emailed Bustle the following comments from superintendent Dr. Greg Poole:
"Barbers Hill ISD believes in the sanctity of local control. Our policies, including expectations of appearance, are fashioned by our Board of Trustees, all of whom are taxpayers in the Barbers Hill school district and have had children attend our schools.
Barbers Hill is one of the premier districts in the state by any measure, and our student enrollment has grown for each of the past 30 years. Much of this growth has been fueled by those who are seeking a rigorous educational environment of high expectations for their children.
Parents have a right to seek an appropriate educational setting for their child, just as Ms. Oates has the right to place her child in a district that reflects her personal expectations for standards of appearance. There are procedures in place for addressing concerns over policy if it is Ms. Oates’ desire to have her son educated in Barbers Hill ISD. But we would and should justifiably be criticized if our district lessened its expectations or longstanding policies simply to appease."
EARLIER: That's when Oates took to Facebook to express her displeasure. In a Facebook Live video on Monday morning, she recorded herself speaking with a woman about her son's hair. In the comments below the video, she noted that her son "loves his hair," and she claims she was told that she could submit documentation stating it could remain long "for cultural and religious reasons."
Although she told Chron.com that she had to call out of work on Tuesday because her son couldn't attend school, she has no intention of making him cut his hair and plans to continue fighting for his right to be educated regardless of hair length. This includes attending a Sep. 1 school district board meeting to plead his case.
Usually, dress codes are criticized for policing women and girls' appearances, as if the very sight of a girl's collarbone will send boys into fits of distraction. Students sometimes come up with clever ways of protesting these requirements; earlier this month, a group of teenage boys wore off-the-shoulder dresses to school in California to support the droves of girls allegedly being sent home for the same style of clothing.
However, dress codes go both ways, and boys can be punished for making traditionally feminine fashion choices. On Tuesday, a woman from Joshua, Texas, claimed that her 9-year-old son was sent home from school for growing out his hair past his shoulders. Similarly, in 2015, a California school district allegedly refused to give a senior his course schedule because his long hair violated the dress code for boys (but not girls). Sound familiar?
With parents and students alike protesting such double standards, gendered dress codes may soon become as outdated as chalkboards and paddling. Until then, the war on dress codes drags on.