Part 2 of my fight against the needville ISD

So, the meeting on Monday (june 9th) went pretty much as expected. Kenney, Adriel and I met with NISD superintendant Curtis Rhodes and Needville Elementary principal Jeanna Sniffin. Ms Sniffin didn’t say anything the whole meeting except to introduce herself. She just sat with a look of confused fear on her face the whole time.

Mr Rhodes firmly stated that our son would not be allowed to attend school with long hair without some type of “proof of sincere religious belief”. When asked exactly what that meant, he wanted us to prove that we have a religious belief that states we should not cut our son’s hair. Since there are not a whole lot of  known religious Native American writings in exhistence, I sarcastically asked if he wanted us to do a rain dance on the front lawn.

I asked what will happen when Adriel comes to school in the fall and Mr Rhodes stated that he will be sent home or placed into “an alternative school setting”. I asked what that meant and he state that he did not know since NISD does not have an alternative school facility for elemenary school students.

We asked how they could legally deny our son his federally protected right to freedom of religion and got no clear answers. We asked about the Native American Freedom of Religion Act and got nothing. So, I brought up male students of other religions that are also required to have long hair as part of their faith. My question was, what would happen if a Sikh boy with a turban and long hair came to school in Needville or an Orthodox Jew with long sideburns and traditional headcovering?

Mr Rhodes stared at me blankly for a few seconds and then stated “no, our policy does not allow that.”

I asked why? How does long hair on a boy prevent other students from learning? I got a canned answer about how the dress code was put in place by the board for all students and blah blah blah it won’t change because that is how it has always been.

Kenney brought out his DNA report from GeneTree that showed his percentage of Native American blood and Mr Rhodes started to look a bit nervous. We showed him case reports where other districts had been sued for Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Free Speech when their dress code enforcement went overboard. None of this changed anything and Mr Rhodes still said that Addie could not come to school with long hair.

So according to Mr Rhodes, we now have the right to take our concerns to the NISD school board. He stated that he would discuss it with them and let us know “in a week or so” when we could meet with them. He then kindly informed us that he “already knew how it would go” and that the board would not change the dress code.

At some point during the meeting Kenney asked what the percentage of Native American students in the school district was. Mr Rhodes was unable to answer this question, stating that he did not know. I would think this is something he would have made sure to know befor the meeting since it was concerning a Native American student. Guess I was wrong.

Anyway, according to the NISD website the ethnic breakdown of the district is as follows:

Black:                                            5.5 %

Hispanic:                                       34.5 %

White:                                             59.3 %

Asian/Pacific:                                 0.4 %

American Indian:                           0.2 %

This is for the entire student population of the district ( 2,596 students).

We didn’t bother to ask what would happen if this particular Jew were to try and enroll his own long haired hypothetical son into the NISD.



I figure we’ll save that for the school board meeting.

As I have been snooping about on the internet for ammunition, I came across this interesting tidbit:

Apparently we won’t be the first to sue the NISD over a ridiculous dress code issue. The girl who wore the shirt is named Heather Mercer and would be about 16 or 17 now. I used the powers of the myspace and found a profile for someone matching that name, age and city. I sent her an email this morning explaining our problem and requesting that her parents contact me. Hopefully they will and we can be good friends.

Now I just need a lawyer, a few rabid civil rights activists and perhaps some religious leaders of other “non-christian” groups who would like to get in on the action. Oh, and don’t forget news reporters. I’m sure there are more than a few out there who would be interested in our story.

I’m currently waiting to hear back from the local chapters of the ACLU, ACLJ and NAACP with more phone calls and letters in the planning.



14 Responses to “Part 2 of my fight against the needville ISD”

  1. SAJ Says:

    What you must do is teach your son that there ARE rules and for the rest of his life there WILL BE rules that he must follow. I think you will be saddened by the fact that the majority of the community will stand behind our school board. Nobody said you had no right to buy property and live in Needville. The suggestion was that if you find the rules so hard to adhere to, perhaps you should reconsider our schools. We left FBISD to have our children attend Needville ISD because of their strict policies. So, you see, not everyone is offended by the rules.

  2. thestitchwitch Says:

    My son does understand that there are rules. He also understands the difference between a rule designed with safety in mind and one designed with oppression in mind. Could you tell me what is so offensive about his hair length? How exactly is it a danger to other students? Why is it so wrong that I defend his rights?

    I’m not particulary saddened by the thought that the majority of the community will side with the school. What saddens me is the fact that it is so easy for them to ignore the fact that this is about his rights. So many people have fought and died for your civil rights and mine. How is it ok to overlook the fact that what the school is doing is against the law?

    How can you be proud of a school district that is willing to take away the rights of its students to enforce a rule that makes no sense?

    Is it really just a case of thinly veiled segregation? Is the school trying to keep out anyone who does not fit there cookie cutter idea of student?

    I hope your civil rights are never threatened. I doubt you would like it either.

  3. SAJ Says:

    Did I say it was dangerous? No I did not. What I said was, that is the rule…period. Get over it. It is not against the law to have a rule in school. And yes, I am very proud of this school district. Zero tolerence is one of the reasons we picked this area. Maybe the rule makes no sense to you, but it does to me.

    I am not the type to try and get attention over such “civil rights violations”

  4. thestitchwitch Says:

    Will you please explain it then? I really would love to know how a child’s hair is something a school needs to make rules about.

    I’m sorry you don’t care about rights. Perhaps some day you or better yet, your children will.

  5. arie Says:

    Have you never heard of a dress code? Let me help…it is a set of rules (gasp!!) that provides guidelines for the students. Needville has earned its respect from other cities and schools because we have such well dressed and well groomed students. We didn’t get it by letting students wear baggy pants, large un-tucked tshirts, mini skirts, tank tops, or flip flops. We are presenting an image here. Discipline must start somewhere. What happens when he wants to work for a respectable law firm….think they won’t have a dress code? This is not a rare or unusual thing for a school or business to enforce rules on the appearance of the students or employees! Drop the civil rights crap already, he is 5 years old! He only knows what you have convinced him of, and you are not benefitting his education in any way.

  6. thestitchwitch Says:

    Your comment still has not explained why hair length needs to be governed by a school. The clothing rules ae pretty obvious that they are for modesty however it still does not give a good reason for hair length.

    It is so sad that you refer to our civil rights as crap. Perhaps you should move to a country where there are none so you can learn to appreciate what you have here.

  7. CR Says:

    Your comment still has not explained why hair length needs to be governed by a school. The clothing rules ae pretty obvious that they are for modesty however it still does not give a good reason for hair length.

    Sorry to say it, and as much as I don’t want to. Needville students are known to be the most well-respected high school graduates in the area. In a way boys/guys with long hair are judged. Just as some people judge against those with tattoos. In our city, almost everyone lives here with the same idea of how it used to be. For example, all guys would have short hair, normal pants, and shirt. Just as almost all women would wear dresses.

    No one said “your civil rights were crap” but if thats what you seem to be taking from our replies, your in way over your head, and not to throw any flames at you but perhaps you should understand you are not making a good first impression within our community, and we are a very close one at that. Just a heads up.

    And although you seem to like saying that NISD doesn’t respect religion, they do if the religious beliefs are legitimate. Tell me I’m wrong, but have you actually attended school at NISD?

  8. thestitchwitch Says:

    I’m afraid no matter how well respected your high school age studenst are, right now all that is still overshadowed by the fact that one of them burned down part of the school last year. I’m sure the rest of them are great kids.

    Did you miss the part where Mr. Rhodes said TWICE that children of other religions that require exemption from parts of the dress code would not be accomodated also? Well, he did. Once at our meeting when I specifically asked about Sikh, Jewish and Muslim students and once on the phone when I asked again.

    If our religious beliefs were not legitimate, I’d cut his hair.

  9. thestitchwitch Says:

    As to the “civil rights crap”, you only need to read Arie’s comment to see one of the references.

    Have you never heard of a dress code? Let me help…it is a set of rules (gasp!!) that …………….(snipped)……….. Drop the civil rights crap already, he is 5 years old! He only knows what you have convinced him of, and you are not benefitting his education in any way.

  10. Sarah Says:

    stitchwitch,you may as well not bother any longer with these two. I doubt that even if they read the American Indian Religious Freedom Act,they would even understand the real importance of this fight. It’s hard for some people to understand the significance of his hair when they don’t bother to educate themselves on it’s religious meaning and what it means to your son. It’s also hard for them to see their own rights being walked on,day after day,without even knowing it simply because of their un-educated status in the civil rights subject. If they are so bent on following rules,then they should know that U.S.governmental law trumps a rule that a school district makes any day. Even my retarded cousin G.Bush can tell them that.

  11. arie Says:

    wait a minute sarah…she wanted this blog. she wanted opinions.

  12. arie Says:

    Wait a minute Sarah…she wanted this blog. She wanted opinions. This is one little part of the Native American tradition…but he’s not strictly following all of their traditions, so why is this one so adamant? Would this make him not Native American…would they shun him if suddenly his hair was cut? No. There are so many other aspects to their history that they could help their son to be a part of.

  13. Sarah Says:

    arie,NO ONE follows traditions and religion to a t. If that were the case,then children would be stoned to death when they got into trouble. I really don’t see how anyone outside their faith can question their beliefs in the first place. It’s sounds ridiculous to me.

  14. Michelle Says:

    I am adamant about this one because this one is the only belief that the school is denying at this time. If they were infringing on other religious practices of ours, I would defend those also.

    Don’t be so quick to decide what traditions we are or are not practicing since you do not know us. Especially since they have nothing to do with this. I would not think of doubting your personal beliefs, why are you doubting mine?

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