This is my fight.

 The Needville Indepenant School District has informed me that my son will not be allowed to attend Kindergarten in the fall because he has long hair. He is Native American.

Sound like a good story? You bet it is.

First a little background information for you interested readers.  My husband and I have been together for about 10 years and married for almost 6. We have a 5 year old son together and will be soon moving to Needville, Texas to start a small family farm on property that my parents own out there. We’re excited about our soon to be (hopefully quiet) rural life away from the city. For those of you that don’t know, Needville is a small town to the South of Houston.

 We’re planning on growing our own crops and raising goats and chickens for meat and milk. Maybe a cow or two also. We own four horses and board six others on our property and we will move there permanently in the next two months or so.

 So, here is the beginning of my fight with Needville ISD. Since we are moving there soon, I decided to contact the principal of the elementary school about what I needed to do to enroll my son. I also figured it was a good time to let her know that my son has long hair since most public schools have dress codes prohibiting that. On May 27 I wrote the following email to the Needville Elementary school principal:

From: Michelle *******
Sent: Tue 5/27/2008 12:04 PM
To: sniffenj@needvilleisd.com
Subject: Kindergarten enrollment
Hello, my family is moving to Needville in about two months. Our son will be entering kindergarten so we need to enroll him at the elementary school. Since we have not moved yet, we don’t have any proof of residency yet. What do we need to do to get him enrolled?
 
Also, my husband and therefore my son are of native american descent. Both of them have long hair in accordance with their heritage. Will this a problem and how will it be addressed?
 
Thank you,
Michelle *******
(phone number removed)
Here is her response.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008 4:56 PM
From:

 
Ms. *******,
     You will need to wait until you move to Needville to enroll your son.  Our dress code in Needville does not allow boy’s hair to touch their ears or go below their collar.  Long hair is not allowed.
J. Sniffin
Pretty cut and dried I guess, only she must have missed the part where I said he was Native American. I wrote back to her but did not get a reply. Here is my response:
Wednesday, May 28, 2008 10:40 AM
From:

To:
“JEANNA SNIFFIN” SNIFFINJ@needvilleisd.com
Ok, thank you for the information. Are you familiar with the American Indian Religous Freedom Act?
 
Michelle *******
 Well, seeing as Ms Sniffin was not interested in communicating with me about my concerns, I went and emailed the NISD superintendant.

From:

Hello, my family is moving to Needville soon and our five year old son will be enrolling in the elementary school. He is Native American and has long hair in accordance with his father’s beliefs. This is a part of their religion and is a right protected under the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. I have contacted Jeanna Sniffin by email about this and she has stated that his long hair is not permitted. I have also contacted the Texas branch of the ACLU in reference to this since it is a violation of my son’s rights to freedom of expression and religion.

I don’t want to cause a fuss, I only want my son to be allowed to attend public school like everyone else. We keep his hair clean and neatly braided so it is not bothersome to anyone. He is an intelligent and well spoken child and is eager to start school and make new friends. The length of his hair is no more distracting than that of a girl’s hair. If a Sikh boy were to enroll in one of your schools, would you require him to remove his traditional headcovering and cut his hair also? How about a child of the Rastafarian belief system? What about yarmulukes on Jewish boys? Head scarves on Muslim girls? My son’s cultural identity is no less important than that of children of any other culture and his rights are just as protected as theirs.

Please reconsider your school districts dress code policy. I doubt my son is the first Native American child to enroll in Needville ISD and I’m sure he won’t be the last either. I realize Needville is a small rural community but as more neighborhoods pop up and suburbia crawls closer, you will start to notice more and more students of different cultures enrolling. It would be best to prepare yourselves now and revise certain policies so your schools are more welcoming to future students.

Here is a link to get you started, you may want to send it to your teaching staff as well. It is a good primer for how schools can be more culturally sensitive towards American Indians:

http://www.racismagainstindians.org/

You may also use the search application of the ACLU website to find instances where other schools have changed their policies regarding hair length, color and styles.As a product of the Texas public school systems, I found it fascinating myself.

http://www.aclu.org

Please let me know as soon as possible if my son will be allowed to attend school with his long hair. I’d really rather not get a lawyer involved since I am a very private person and would prefer not to be the focus of the next obnoxious media story. Ideally, my son will just be allowed to go to school like everyone else without being blocked from any activities.

Thank you,

Michelle *******

 

His response was really not very helpful but I guess I hit a nerve with the “rural” comment.

 

Ms. *********,

 

The best avenue to address your concern with our dress code is to meet with you. Even though we are a “rural” school community, we are well aware of various cultures and religions along with the ACLU, ACLJ, and many other interest groups.

 

The earliest I have in my schedule is June 9th or 10th. If you wish for the principal to be present in the meeting we would need to meet on the 9th or wait until the week of the 16th. Feel free to respond back electronically or via telephone at 979-***-****

 

Thank you for your interest in Needville ISD,

Curtis Rhodes

 

 Well, we chose June 9th for our meeting with Mr Rhodes and Ms Sniffin. The time was chosen and we eagerly awaited our meeting with the two of them. We gathered a few articles printed up off the internet and a copy of my husband’s DNA report that shows what percentage of Native American blood he carries and waited for the day to come.

 

 

 

 

 

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One Response to “This is my fight.”

  1. btani Says:

    I have contacted the Chickasaw Nation on your behalf. You might try many others- I believe they will all be interested in helping. Here are the phone numbers for the Chickasaw Nation:
    Chickasaw Services At Large Outreach
    (866) 466-1481

    Chickasaw Tribal Legislature
    (580) 436-1460

    District Court
    (580) 235-0279

    Supreme Court
    (580) 235-0281

    Bureau of Indian Affairs
    (580) 436-0784

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