Archive for June, 2008

FAQ

June 30, 2008

 There have been some questions and comments that I’ve seen on some of the places where our fight is being discussed online as well as have been asked to me in person.  I will try to address all of them here so that maybe the questions won’t get too repetitive. I don’t mind questions so if your curious about something and it is not answered here, feel free to ask. Questions and answers are how we learn.

Comment: You’re just doing this for attention. “Cut the civil rights crap”.

Answer: Well yes, I am. I am trying to bring attention to the fact that the NISD thinks it is ok to deny the right of religious freedom to their students. I think it is important that people know about it. If I wanted “attention” just for myself I’d pick something a bit easier and less stressful like naked chainsaw juggling.

Question: I saw the news interview and his dad’s hair is not all that long…

Answer: No, his hair is not as long as it might be if he had never had it cut. Adriel’s father had to cut his hair when he started school and keep it short. He went to school in Rosenberg (near Needville) so he is familiar with this type of thing. He has been growing it out for the last ten years.

Question: Why don’t you put him in a private school/homeschool him/move to a school district that will allow him to keep his hair without a fight?

Answer: Private schooling, home schooling or moving away does not solve the problem. It only tells our son that his rights are not worth fighting for and it tells the school district that its OK for them to keep infringing on the civil rights of their students. I suppose it would be easier but sometimes the right way is not the easy way.

Question: Aren’t you worried that teachers and other students will be hostile to your child?

Answer: Yes I am worried. Not everyone will agree with us and their opinions will be fed to their children who may in turn make things difficult for my son.  Unfortunatly that is life.  Parents teach their children their own values and if bigotry is one of them, it gets gets passed down too. Luckily, some children grow up and realize that intolerance is wrong and adjust their own values accordingly.

Plenty of children have had to deal with unpleasant school experiences. When school segregation was ended it was not easy for those children either.

Question: Is his hair religious or cultural?

Answer: It is both. Native Americans have many spiritual beliefs. So many that their spirituality and their customs are many times one and the same. There are beliefs associated with hair, the most commonly known is that your hair is a measure of how long you have been here and what you have experienced. It is a record of your life.

Internet searches and books on Native American religious practices will not give you much in the way of a thorough education on the subject. So much of Native American culture has been bastardized that very few people are willing to share all of their beliefs and traditions. They have been reduced to team mascots and the bad guys in old westerns so it is understandable that they do not wish to share their religious customs with everyone.

Question: Are’nt you worried about what your neighbors/other area citizens will think?

Answer: No. I’m not interested in popularity. Its fine if not everyone agrees with us and I understand that many people will not.

Question: What tribe and are you a registered member?

Answer: Lipan Apache and no, not at this time.

Proof of tribal affiliation or even DNA percentage of Indian blood is not the issue in this case even though we offered DNA proof to the superintendent. The law does not require that we prove any of this, only that our belief is “sincere”.

I am just your average run of the mill white woman of german and scotch-irish descent yet I sincerely believe that my son’s hair is very important to my family’s belief system. Other than trimming split ends, I have not cut my own hair in many years.

 I think that about covers everything but I will add to this if there are more questions or comments that need to be addressed.

The appeal forms have been sent in and the date for our appeal meeting is July 16th at the regular monthly school board meeting.

 

 

The KPFT interview and my book came in!

June 27, 2008

 

 

My husband was interviewd this morning on the KPFT radio station in Houston. If you missed it but want a chance to hear what was said, go here:

http://archive.kpft.org/

Look for the People of Earth segment for Friday June 27th at 11 am. We have another interview scheduled tomorrow for a local paper.

 My book came in the mail yesterday and I’ve already filled it with highlighter marks and paperclips. The Educator’s Guide to Texas School Law  (6th edition) by Jim Walsh, Frank Kemerer and Laurie Maniotis is a really good resource. There is a 2007 update that I need to get that goes with it but I am reading this one right now.

 I think this is a great book for anyone with school age children in Texas as well as teachers and school administrators. It explains the laws in plain english instead of “legalese” and gives several examples of cases that have been important in establishing certain things. My favorite part so far is in chapter seven where they discuss the Texas Religious Freedom Act or TRFA that was passed in 1999.

 On page 288 it says:

Codified as Civil Practices and Remedies Code 110.001-110.012, TRFA provides that a governmental agency may not “substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion” unless it can establish a “compelling governmental interest” that is the “least restrictive means of furthering that interest”. The term “free exercise of religion” is defined to mean an act or refusal to act that is substantially motivated by sincere religious belief. The law does not require that the act or refusal to act must be linked to a central part or requirement of the person’s faith, only that it be “sincere”. This has the effect of conveying broad support for religiously motivated behavior. At the same time, the burden is heavy on government to justify its actions that substantially burden such behaviors.

 I think it should be pretty obvious by now that Adriel’s father and I are pretty damn sincere when it comes to our beliefs. Hopefully the school board will see that when we speak with them at the appeal. With the laws that we have in place to protect religious freedoms, I surprised that it has been this much trouble to have my son allowed to go to school.

Last minute radio interview.

June 27, 2008

11 am this morning. Listen in on http://www.kpft.org

Like ripples in a pond….

June 26, 2008

Word is spreading. Thank you for those of you who have reposted the story, blogged or otherwise helped get the word out.

If you have other links where our story is being talked about, please send them to me. I’ll even post any negative ones if they are out there.  getsinched@yahoo.com

Dailykos.com

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/6/22/21357/4494/969/540085

Livejournal posts:

http://community.livejournal.com/anthropologist/1234025.html

http://community.livejournal.com/longhair/2368896.html

http://community.livejournal.com/longhair/2370921.html

Bilerco.com:

http://www.bilerico.com/2008/06/get_a_damn_haircut.php

Myspace:

http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=940406&blogID=407081063

My other blogs on the interwebs:

https://thestitchwitch.wordpress.com/

http://stitchwitch13.livejournal.com/

www.myspace.com/thestitchwitch

Added on 6/30/08

http://www.plime.com/religion/l/67000/1/

http://magickcitypagans.org/forums/index.php?topic=2788.0;topicseen

Added 7/14/08

http://www.babble.com/CS/blogs/strollerderby/archive/2008/07/03/dress-code_2C00_-Adriel-Arocha_2C00_-Needville-Independent-School-District_2C00_-Native-American-heritage_2C00_-tradition.aspx

Tradition, schools and little boy’s hair.

June 25, 2008

I know I’ve already posted about the similarities  between today’s school dress codes prohibiting long hair on boys and the Indian schools of the past. While I cannot prove that the Indian boarding school dress codes begat the modern school dress codes, one cannot help but compare the two and wonder about their relation to each other. I doubt the similarity is simply a matter of chance though.

 I found something today that I though would be good to post here. Its a copy of a letter sent by the Office of Indian Affairs to one of the Indian boarding schools in 1902. I found it here:

http://www.bluecloud.org/misunder.html

Department of the Interior
Office of Indian Affairs
Washington, January 13, 1902

The Superintendent,
Greenville School,
California.

Sir;

This Office desires to call your attention to a few customs among the Indians which, it is believed, should be modified or discontinued.

The wearing of long hair by the male population of your agency is not in keeping with the advancement they are making, or will soon be expected to make, in civilization. The wearing of short hair by the males will be a great step in advance and will certainly hasten their progress towards civilization. The returned male student far too frequently goes back to the reservation and falls into the old custom of letting his hair grow long. He also paints profusely and adopts all the old habits and customs which his education in our industrial schools has tried to eradicate. The fault does not lie so much with the schools as with the conditions found on the reservations. These conditions are very often due to the policy of the Government toward the Indian and are often perpetuated by the superintendent’s not caring to take the initiative in fastening any new policy on his administration of the affairs of the agency.

On many of the reservations the Indians of both sexes paint claiming that it keeps the skin warm in winter and cool in summer; but instead, this paint melts when the Indian perspires and runs down into the eyes. The use of this paint leads to many diseases of the eyes among those Indians who paint. Persons who have given considerable thought and investigation to the subject are satisfied that this custom causes the majority of the cases of blindness among the Indians of the Unites States.

You are therefore directed to induce your male Indians to cut their hair, and both sexes to stop painting. With some of the Indians this will be an easy matter; with others it will require considerable tact and perseverance on the part of yourself and your employes (sic) to successfully carry out these instructions. With your Indian employes (sic) and those Indians who draw rations and supplies it should be an easy matter as a non-compliance with this order may be made a reason for discharge or for withholding rations and supplies. Many may be induced to comply with the order voluntarily, especially the returned student. The returned students who do not comply voluntarily should be dealt with summarily. Employment, supplies, etc., should be withdrawn until they do comply and if they become obstreperous about the matter a short confinement in the guard-house at hard labor, with shorn locks, should furnish a cure. Certainly all the younger men should wear short hear, and it is believed that by tact, perseverance firmness, and withdrawal of supplies the superintendent can induce all to comply with this order.

The wearing of citizen’s clothing, instead of the Indian costume and blanket, should be encouraged.

Indian dances and so-called Indian feasts should be prohibited. In many cases these dances and feasts are simply subterfuges to ever degrading acts and to disguise immoral purposes. You are directed to use your best efforts in the suppression of these evils.

Very respectfully,

W.S.Jones
Commissioner

 If you have not already watched this video, you should. I posted it before and I feel pretty strongly about it.

Our Spirits Don’t Speak English: Indian Boarding School

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDshQTBh5d4

So yeah…..

 

Lets all give a round of applause for tradition. ‘Cause you know, erasing someone’s cultural identity is something to be proud of. 

 

 

According to the US Department of Education…

June 24, 2008

http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/religious-rights2004.html

Title VI and Title IX Religious Discrimination in Schools and Colleges

OFFICE OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY

September 13, 2004

Dear Colleague:

On the seventeenth day of September, we will observe Constitution Day, commemorating the final day on which the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met to sign the document that they had created in 1787. It is appropriate, as we approach this day of education and remembrance, to address the protections that we receive through the Constitution and laws of the United States. On this occasion, I would like to address the right of all students, including students of faith, to be free from discrimination in our schools and colleges under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 (Title IX).

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) ensures compliance by recipients of the Department’s financial assistance with federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, sex, disability, or age, or in the access of certain patriotic organizations to school facilities. Other agencies, including the United States Department of Justice, ensure compliance with federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion. The Department of Justice recently reaffirmed its commitment to enforce civil rights laws protecting students perceived to be of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent from religious and national origin discrimination in a letter to state boards of education. This Department issued Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools on February 7, 2003. Although OCR’s jurisdiction does not extend to religious discrimination, OCR does aggressively enforce Title VI, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race or national origin, and Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. In OCR’s experience, some cases of religious discrimination may also involve racial, ethnic or sex discrimination.

OCR has recently addressed two kinds of race and sex discrimination allegations commingled with allegations of religious discrimination. First, since the attacks of September 11, 2001, OCR has received complaints of race or national origin harassment commingled with aspects of religious discrimination against Arab Muslim, Sikh, and Jewish students. Second, OCR has recently encountered allegations of racial and sex discrimination commingled with allegations of religious discrimination against Christian students. OCR does not tolerate either of these forms of harassment, which are prohibited by Title VI and Title IX.

As we pass the third anniversary of September 11, 2001, we must remain particularly attentive to the claims of students who may be targeted for harassment based on their membership in groups that exhibit both ethnic and religious characteristics, such as Arab Muslims, Jewish Americans and Sikhs. President George W. Bush and Secretary Rod Paige have both condemned such acts of bigotry. As President Bush has said, “those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don’t represent the best of America, they represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of their behavior.” OCR has conducted countless outreach initiatives since September 11, 2001, to assure members of affected communities that their civil rights will be protected. Groups that face discrimination on the basis of shared ethnic characteristics may not be denied the protection of our civil rights laws on the ground that they also share a common faith. Similarly, the existence of facts indicative of religious discrimination does not divest OCR of jurisdiction to investigate and remedy allegations of race or ethnic discrimination. OCR will exercise its jurisdiction to enforce the Title VI prohibition against national origin discrimination, regardless of whether the groups targeted for discrimination also exhibit religious characteristics. Thus, for example, OCR aggressively investigates alleged race or ethnic harassment against Arab Muslim, Sikh and Jewish students.

OCR has also recently investigated allegations of race and sex discrimination against white, male Christian students. In one unfortunate incident, a white male undergraduate student was harassed by a professor for expressing conservative Christian views in a classroom discussion regarding homosexuality. Just last year, OCR issued a “Dear Colleague” letter admonishing recipients of federal financial assistance that “schools in regulating the conduct of students and faculty to prevent or redress discrimination must formulate, interpret, and apply their rules in a manner that respects the legal rights of students and faculty, including those court precedents interpreting the concept of free speech.” No OCR policy should be construed to permit, much less to require, any form of religious discrimination or any encroachment upon the free exercise of religion. While OCR lacks jurisdiction to prohibit discrimination against students based on religion per se, OCR will aggressively prosecute harassment of religious students who are targeted on the basis of race or gender, as well as racial or gender harassment of students who are targeted on the basis of religion.

As we observe Constitution Day this year, I hope that you will join me in reaffirming our commitment to the protection of basic civil rights and civil liberties, including the right of students of all faiths to be free from invidious discrimination. As Secretary Rod Paige has said, “Working together, we can make sure that our children get a good education in a safe environment that does not tolerate violence and hatred.”

Sincerely,

Kenneth L. Marcus
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Enforcement
Delegated the Authority of the Assistant Secretary
for Civil Rights

 

Why are they afraid of change?

June 23, 2008

 As this thing builds steam, a few negative comments have been left. It would be unrealistic to expect everyone to agree with our stance on this issue and I have and will continue to post every comment left here and on my other blogs. I certainly would not want to infringe on anyone else’s freedom of speech if you know what I mean.

 Someone from Needville finally commented here and the message was really kind of sad and strange. I hope the poster returns to explain some of the comments a bit more. I’ll post it and my response before discussing it further.

 

  1. mm Says:
    June 23, 2008 at 4:25 pm   editIf Needville is such a joke to you, why do you want to move here? If you have to fight and make fun of the school board and principal, why would you want your son to attend a school they are in charge of? Are you going to look up definitions and call organizations every time your son doesn’t get his way?We have had citizens like this before….this attention you are trying so hard to draw to yourself and your poor son will do you no good! Please don’t flatter yourself into thinking we are afraid of you, amazed by your different looks, or trying to hide our meeting dates from you!!! Do you not realize the can of worms that will open if they let this one rule slide? “The whole focus seems to be on state testing scores rather than on actually educating the kids. At least thats what I got out of tehemeeting.” That’s right…that’s all you got out of it. Your focus is on a haircut…now tell me where that ranks in education. The scores are determined by how the students score on the tests, which is determined by what else….the education they receive!!!!!!!

    We are a respectable community because we obey rules and respect authority. We have a highly sought after school district because of the rules and how they are enforced. We didn’t get this status, which you call “rural”, by letting people push us over! With the indian background, heritage, etc, don’t you know the meaning of tradition, rules, RESPECT? Well this is Needville’s tradition! We live here because we love the town, the community, the traditions, and yes, even the rules. You do realize we are not here to cater to you, right?

    So take your dictionary, your snazzy phone, and your loads of free time, and move to a school who doesn’t care what the kids look like, dress like, or act like….and see what kind of education he gets. You’ll be fighting much more important things than just a rule in a dress code.

  2. thestitchwitch Says:
    June 23, 2008 at 6:01 pm   editI’m moving there because we own a beautiful piece of property there and last time I checked, it was my right to do so. I want my son to go to school there because that is the school we are zoned for. I would fight just as hard no matter what school he was going to attend if they did the same thing. Its not about my son “getting his way”, it is about his constitutionally protected rights.I would rather you not be afraid, I would rather the school board respect the laws put in place for teh protection of ALL people regardless of their religious affiliation. Please explain what this “can of worms that will open” means exactly. Perhaps I am missing something but won’t it mean that the school board will have to respect the civil rights of their students? How is this a problem?

    Test scores don’t always mean that the students are getting the education they need. It only means they have been taught to pass the standardized tests. I would think that the school board would be more interested in using their funds to combat the roach and mouse problem they are having rather than have to spend it on lawyers.

    My focus is not just about a hair cut. My focus is on the fact that the Needville ISD refuses to allow children of any religion that requires long hair on boys or children that wear religious head coverings to attend school there. This is illegal and wrong. How is that so hard to understand? I would hope that bigotry is something to be ashamed of, not proud of.

    I would like to believe that Needville is a respectable community, I really would. I hope that the majority of the Needville citizens are more progressive than the school board is. I like it there; it is quiet and peaceful and my child will get to grow up away from the bigger city areas around here and be educated in a high rated school district. We look forward to living on our own farm where we can grow our own food and see the stars at night.

    Respect is an important thing, you are right. It must be earned though. I gave them the respect of discussing this issue in private and providing documentation to prove that this is my son’s heritage and right. When they ignored the proof and chose instead to tread on my son’s rights, I saw no reason to keep this private any longer. I don’t expect anyone to cater to me, I expect them to obey the law just as I do. I would never attempt to deny someone their rights, why is it ok for the school district to do it? Again is bigotry something to be proud of?

    I will not move. I will not cut my son’s hair. I will continue to fight this and continue to post the progress of our fight for as long as it takes.

What I am most interested in is this: “Do you not realize the can of worms that will open if they let this one rule slide?”

What are they so afraid will happen if they do what they are supposed to and stop denying students their religious freedom? Are they afraid that their children will learn to be more accepting of others than they are? Wouldn’t that be a good thing? Or is the fear that once all students are welcome in that school district; that the ethnic breakdown will change? I hope that is not the case.

I really don’t see how one can have respect in their own community when bigotry is the norm. Really, proud of rules that force someone to choose between getting an education or respecting their own religious practices?

“We are a respectable community because we obey rules and respect authority. We have a highly sought after school district because of the rules and how they are enforced. We didn’t get this status, which you call “rural”, by letting people push us over! With the indian background, heritage, etc, don’t you know the meaning of tradition, rules, RESPECT? Well this is Needville’s tradition!”

I certainly hope that I am just misunderstanding the words here. I hope that the “tradition” of Needville is not denying the civil rights of its students. I doubt the overbearing rules of the dress code have much to do with the success of the Needville ISD’s educational program. I would hope that success came from good teachers and fairness for all students.

Did a little shopping today.

June 22, 2008

We were in a store today doing a little shopping and found a new shirt for Adriel that seemed really appropriate. I wonder if the school board will disapprove of it too?

 

6/22/08

 

 

Survey time!

June 21, 2008

A recent comment has given me an idea. I am curious about what types of people truly believe that my son should cut his hair even though it is a part of his heritage and belief system. It might give me some insight into what I’m up against or it might just be entertaining “get to know you” exercise. I guess it depends on the truthfulness of the answers.

 Feel free to answer the questions if you think he should be allowed to keep his hair too, we’ll call it a social experiment. Some of them have to do with the issue and some of them are just whatever popped into my head. For fairness, I’ll answer the questions too just in case anyone else is keeping score.

1. What country do you live in?  U.S.A.

2. Are you a parent?  yes

3. Do you refer to yourself as male or female?  female

4. Age? 30

5. What state do you live in?   Texas

6. Do you live in a mostly urban or a mostly rural area?  Suburban at the moment, moving to rural

7. What is your ethnic makeup? scotch irish and german (white)

8. Did you go to public school, or private school?  public

9. Did you graduate from high school?  yes

10. Have you attended or graduated from college?  no

11. What religion (if any) were you raised in?  Presbyterian

12. What religion (if any) are you now?  I don’t identify with any one religion

13. Do you think it is wrong for boys to have long hair?    nope

14. Why or why not?  See previous blog on long hair

15. Do you  think it is wrong for girls to have short hair?  nope

16. Why or why not?  I think hair is a personal matter and its none of my business how someone wears theirs

17. When you were in school, was there ever a time where someone’s hairstyle was so distracting that it stopped you from being able to learn? If yes, please give some details.         nope

18. What things did you find distracting in school?   Hmmmm… there was that chick who came in drunk and fell out of her chair in my 7th grade english class (the teacher didn’t say anything about it) , fights in the halls, people having sex in the bathrooms, all the knocked up girls, drug sales…… you get my point.

19. Did you or anyone you know ever have lice as a child?  No and no.

20. How do you feel about same sex marriage?  I’m cool with it.

21. Are you pro-choice or pro-life?   Pro-choice but I would hope its not just for conveniance, contraception is a good thing.

22. Do you think schools should teach sex ed or parents?   Both

23. Do you know the difference between polygamy and polyamory? yes

24. What’s your favorite color?  Blue or green

25. If you were a dessert, what would you be?  Thats a stupid question and I refuse to answer it.

26. Dog person or cat person?   yes

27. Glass half empty or glass half full?   depends on whats in it I guess.

I guess those are enough questions. I don’t know if it will tell me anything but I’m curious anyway. If you’ve bothered to read the whole thing and are more interested on an update for today; I don’t have much of one. I’m not supposed to post everything now just in case the NISD had started reading these. Don’t want them to know just how much we have in support of our case. I can say that several of the organizations I have contacted are interested in our fight and many have offered help.

 

 

Oh my…..

June 20, 2008

Wow. Really, just …. wow. I got a phone call a short time ago from one of the dozens of organizations I have contacted about our legal issues with the Needville ISD. The nice young man on the phone explained that the **** could not help me but that they could recomend a similiar group in Texas that might be able to. He gave me the url for the Liberty Legal Institute in Texas.

www.libertylegal.org

I checked out the site but I’m afraid I won’t be contacting them.

 

You see, I am pro same-sex marriage and it looks like that would be a problem.

 

Oh well.