Archive for July, 2008

Another article worth mentioning….

July 30, 2008

  A friend in Needville sent it to me. I found the “could possibly be a misquote” part to be ironically funny.  😉
Lipan Apache family fights Texas school district’s hair length policy
by: Brian Daffron / Today correspondent
© Indian Country Today July 28, 2008. All Rights Reserved
ANADARKO, Okla. – Five-year-old Adriel Arocha, currently of Stafford, Texas, has gained a lot of worldwide attention recently.

When asked by a reporter about why he wears his hair long, the young boy in braids said, ”It tells me how long I’ve been here.”

Originally aired by KRPC-TV, the news segment has since made it to MSNBC’s Web site of most frequently viewed videos. However, the segment isn’t just about a young Indian boy’s hair. Instead, it is about his parents’ challenge to the Needville, Texas, school district’s hair length policy, a district that Adriel will most likely find himself in at the beginning of the school year, and whose hair length policy he would be violating as soon as he entered the door.

”We did this as trying to smooth the waters and offer the olive branch,” said Adriel’s father, Kenney Arocha, 33, in a phone interview with Indian Country Today. ”We notified them long before the beginning of the school year that we were coming and get an understanding of what we needed to do to have my son go to school there.”

Arocha, whose new home recently completed construction in Needville at press time, owns his own business and is of Lipan Apache descent. Although the Lipan Apache have strong historical ties to the southern Plains, the incorporated Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas, based out of Corpus Christi, is not federally recognized.

Located outside of Houston, the Needville Independent School District has strict dress and hair codes regarding its students. In order to clear the way for his son, Arocha said that he went through the proper channels of the school district, which include first making a grievance with the principal, then the superintendent and, finally, a meeting with the school board.

On July 16, Arocha met with the school board and presented his case. According to both Arocha and a spokesperson for the school district, the school board ultimately made the decision to not make a decision=2 0because the Arocha family has not yet moved into the district to enroll Adriel as a student.

”They dodged the bullet on a technicality,” Arocha said. ”According to them, we still do not technically live in the city. Since we do not live in the city, my son is not able to register legally in their school district. Since he’s not registered in the school district, he is not a student. Since he is not a student, they have not denied anyone their rights. They say it’s a non-issue.”

In the case that Adriel is enrolled as a student in the Needville District, Arocha said that he would then be required to go through the same three stages of grievances and then be required to show proof of the family’s sincerely held religious beliefs.

”The district has a dress code and a hair code for students,” said Rhonda Crass, attorney for the school district. ”In the event a student asks for an exception, under state or federal law, then at that point the school would evaluate it. At current, the student is welcome to move into the community. The student is welcome to enroll in the community. If the student moves into the community, the student will be required to follow the dress code unless they request an exception and are granted one.”

Crass said that part of this process of giving evidence of deeply held religious convictions would be to express these beliefs in writing in their presentation to the school board. However, Arocha said that’s been a part o f some of the problems he’s received from the superintendent, Curtis Rhodes, and from the school board meeting – having to prove beliefs that aren’t codified. In the same news clip that featured Adriel, Rhodes is quoted on camera as saying that the Arocha family would have to ”prove that there’s a recognized religion.”

”I think that’s really kind of demeaning, honestly, to ask somebody how they recognize their religion,” Arocha said. ”I don’t even understand how to approach that statement. I’ve told him on several occasions in a closed session and last night at the board meeting with several members of the community there watching. We don’t have a lot of written tradition. We do that for a reason. All of our history is passed down orally. There is no way that I could open a book and show him and cite chapter and verse as to how we live our lives.”

When asked about the statement made by Rhodes, Crass said that it ”could possibly be a misquote.” She then immediately emphasized federal and state laws regarding exemptions for religious beliefs.

”If a student can demonstrate a sincerely held religious belief according to state or federal law,” she said, ”then they’ll certainly be granted an exception if they follow the guidelines set out by the state and federal law and the courts in establishing a sincerely held religious belief.”

Soon, Arocha will be enrolling his son in Needville’s Elementary School, with the possibility of having to go through the three-part grievance process again almost a certainty. For Arocha, the fight to keep his son’s hair long and get an education is a multifaceted issue that extends not only on a religious basis but a constitutional one as well.

”This is important not only on a spiritual, cultural and religious level,” Arocha said. ”They’re asking us to suspend the Constitution. The [American Indian Religious Freedom Act] wasn’t passed until 1978. I was 3 years old when we were finally allowed to believe openly the way we do and practice how we see fit. Here we are, 30 years later, and they’re asking me to give that back, and I cannot do that.”

Please visit the Indian Country Today website for more articles related to this topic.

Letters and updating…

July 28, 2008

 We’ve been busy! Between packing, moving stuff and getting ready for a business trip, I’ve been a bit too busy to blog lately. Things are still moving slowly forward. All the utilities except for the phone line and internet are hooked up and the change of address forms have been sent in. We spent the night in our new home on Wednesday night so we could be there all day Thursday for various service companies to come out a do their things. It was neat waking up and seeing our horses outside. Adriel likes his new room and is trying to decide how he wants to paint it.

 I can’t really post much about the legal steps that are going on right now but don’t worry, things are being taken care of. I’m still hopeful that Adriel will be allowed to go to school without having to deal with a lawsuit but who knows how that will go. I guess we’ll find out on August 25th when school starts.

 Anyway, I thought I would share a few of the letters I have received concerning this problem. Most were forwarded to me as well as the school board but the first one was sent only to me. That one probably means the most to me. Its a story I have heard repeated many times now with little variation. I’m leaving out the names for the writers’ privacy.

My name is ******. I am a Choctaw and I grew up in Small town Tennessee. I read your post in the group and I can relate. I just thought I would write you in private. I’m not too big on posting stuff in the group lol.
anyways when I was younger I wasn’t allowed to keep my hair long. my mother and father kind of raised me to know of my culture but they weren’t raising me to Be NDN (it’s hard to explain maybe you get it). anyways it was a time in my life (I was 14 I think) and I was experiencing the feeling of being lost or needing to know who I was, who I was becoming. So I began embracing my identity and learning all I can about it. Here comes the school with their westernized thoughts. as I was coming into High School, they told me I couldn’t keep my hair long, were my beaded necklace, or my shell earrings. they told me it was a violation of the dress code. I read the school manual, found nothing I was doing wrong. I told my mom we should fight it. She didn’t wanna fight it. Next thing you know I was at the barbers. It didn’t stop there. The school wouldn’t let me express myself concerning: history, the world around us, the status of the country, the mindset of the local community, etc. So suppressing my identity and expression of my mind led to me dropping out. I had to get my GED, I moved out of the town, then to Lawrence Kansas to go to College (at Haskell) to be around more of my NDN people. I mean yeah I’m fine now but I can’t help but feel they (small town TN school board) won. It was a rough. Like I said i’m fine now, but the days of my youth weren’t pleasent, I just felt like I was held down from rising to be me. So I just want you to know that, even though I don’t know you, I support your cause, and I pray for you and your family. and that I will notify a few friends and relatives of mine in Texas of your dillema. So don’t give up. You don’t have to write back or anything, I’m just writing to show support.


To Whom It May Concern:

I have recently been made aware of an incident concerning a young American Indian boy, Adriel.

In keeping with his father’s American Indian heritage, Adriel has long, braided hair. His parents keep it clean and neatly braided. However, it has been made clear to his parents that Adriel must cut his traditional braids in order to attend kindergarten at Needsville Elementary School.

Despite the fact that I reside in San Francisco, California, I would like to voice my complaints about this. I consider this case to be a gross abuse of civil rights and an abuse of American citizens’ religious freedom. Would you force an Orthodox Jewish boy to remove his yarmulke and remove the tradition sideburns? Would you demand that a Sikh boy remove his turban, or a Muslim girl her headscarf? In your act of insisting that Adriel must cut his braids, you are violating a very basic Constitutional right: the right to religious freedom.

While you claim that “the policy has always been this way and will not change for one student”, consider this: Adriel is certainly not the first American Indian child to enroll in your school, and will not be the last. As suburbia crawls nearer to your community, you will notice an influx of students whose religious beliefs do not correspond with the current dress code. Demanding that Adriel’s family provide “”proof of sincere religious belief” is an ignorant request, as it is a widely known fact that American Indians did not leave behind much in the way of written history.

Consider the lawsuit that will definitely ensue if you continue to attempt to force an outdated dress code on a child who is clearly following the traditions of his heritage. Consider also the amount of people who are involved in organizations that are dedicated solely to the upholding of American Indian rights.

The world around your school system is changing, and it is necessary to make adjustments to accommodate that change.


****** ********


Hello. I’m a resident of the area, I pay NISD taxes, & I’ve been following the issue concerning one young gentleman’s hair length. I’ve shared the story with several friends, family & acquaintences. I feel it would be beneficial to the community that I share with you the responses I’ve gotten.

Being elected officials, the way you (and Mr Rhodes) approach such topics & the decisions you make reflect on the entire area as a whole. This issue has gained widespread attention and many people are watching.

In my sharing the links to the television reports & printed media (houstonpress & fortbendnow), these have been the replies. I posted the links & asked peoples’ opinions on them. I posted these to friends, family, and several online forums for teachers & parents.

I have highlighted in red the comments that really stand out as showing the negative impression this decision & the comments made by Mr. Rhoads have made not only on the school, but on this entire community:

“I saw right off the bat he looks Indian. my boy is Cherokee and I do cut his hair but he has sensory issues and I cant brush or comb it. there is no Indian “bible” just traditions passed down. Indians were beaten and killed for using their native tongue think they would suffer a punishment of writing their way of life down? think any of the writings remain? maybe I’m used to it being the year 2008 and people being a bit more open minded. I hope they win.”
“This is terrible! I will pass this on. Stuff like this really ticks me off. What does that child’s hair hurt? Especially when that hair style is part of his heritage as a Native American. If they force that boy to cut his hair then every little girl in that school should have to cut theirs too….really no one should have to, but you know what I mean. So unfair and just un-necessary.”
“It is unfortunate that things like this happen but this is the only way that change will ever come about. The one suffering from this is the child. I think the school should have some leeway with this rule because it is not enforced for both genders. This boy is not having long hair to show some type of statement he has long hair because it’s a culture and religious related. Kudos for the mom for fighting this. The big point to make here is are there any middle eastern children in the school district? If so do they make those children take off their face coverings (yes I know that they only use those coverings at a certain age but that’s not the point). That is part of their culture and religion and is more than likely not addressed in the dress code. I agree that this is outrageous.”
“Wow. If you ask me they have a pretty winnable lawsuit on their hands.”
“that is so wrong of the school. what happened to we do not turn anyone down because of race, color or religion? I have Cherokee in my blood, and that is so wrong of the school to do that. I hope they win the lawsuit.”
“I think that is terrible that child should be able to go to school with his hair long and braided. I hope they win their appeal I will pass this on”
“I think the school’s behavior is atrocious and I think that this family has a very winnable, very worthwhile lawsuit ahead of them.”
“I think that this is so wrong, this poor boy! He should be able to get an education, no matter how long his hair is. they have no right to tell him to cut it, especially if it has to do with his heritage! I feel like writing the school!”
“This just makes me mad! I am part Shawnee Indian and no one better ever ask me to cut my hair I will tell them where to shove it! This is part of his heritage and what they believe in.”
“That sucks. I really think that it is an outdated rule due to the fact that the girls do not have the same policy. I am sure if she fought hard enough that she may get it changed. Stand up for her rights as a FREE AMERICAN and NOT cut her son’s hair.”
“Not a reason for not let him to attend school.”
“I live down the road from Needville, and I must say-not surprised. As an Anthropology major, this smacks of early 1900 indoctrination-the need to assimilate the heathen Native American to our more “civilized” way of life. Who cares about respecting everyone’s religious ideas and freedoms? As far as I’m concerned, this district does not want to be anything other than the rural town that it is. With more and more people of differing backgrounds heading out that way, this might be the first challenge they have received to their dress code, but it won’t be the last. I hope this Mom continues to push this issue. ”
“I remember when I was a kid there was a school that forbid a child to go there because they had dyed their hair purple. The school lost the law suit! I believe that these people will win and not only that but shed a big fat spot light on this ghastly school district! Shaving a child’s head without permission is assault! I know that sounds a bit drastic but under the guidelines of what the nursing profession considers assault, that classifies!!! I will be praying for this family to win and stick it to this school. Have they been sued before this?”
” This Rhoads is a pompous ass. I hope they take him down. ”
“I was actually wondering if racism is an issue in this town. I feel so bad for this family.”
“I agree!!! Is this a public school?? Hasn’t this jerk ever heard of the right to a free and public education for all students without discrimination!?!? Quoting **************: This Rhoads is a pompous ass. I hope they take him down.”
“I personally can’t stand long hair on boys, but in this case regardless of the length they are attacking a child for his culture and for goodness sake’s he’s only in kindergarten. That Rhodes guy clearly sounds like an ass and I do too wonder if maybe he’s a lil prejudice. I hope the Native Americans win this case and that Rhodes has to eat his words”
“I am confused… I would certainly complain to the school about that jeez how in the heck does hair length affect education I thought we knew better by now. My Fil got thrown out of school in the early 70’s for having a beard he fought that hard but being an orphan he had no one to help him stand up against it then a year later another child had the same issue and his parents fought and won the right for there child to have facial hair as the school (with the help of the parents lawyer) finally realized that facial hair has no bearing on anyone’s education what so ever”
Absolutely this is discrimination!!! I live in San Antonio now but came from a very small Texas town like that. To me this is not a matter of trying to have long hair because its cool. This is a matter of respecting his heritage. I was raised in Arizona surrounded by reservations, my 2 best friends were Navajo and Zuni. This young boys hair would always be kept in a neat braid and would most likely be kept nicer than other boys cause its a pride matter. ”
“I agree. That’s like asking a Sikh student to remove his turban because they think it’s a hat. It’s ridiculous.”
“I think schools have pushed it way to far. does it really interfere with education? no? then back off. public schools need to accept the public! and if girls don’t have to cut their hair, boys had better not be made to!”————————————————————————————————————————————————————
“I agree. It is no longer culturally unacceptable for boys to have long hair. Like she said…if girls can have long hair then so can boys.”
“I think there are better things the school can be focused on. This is a waste of time and money.”
“Absolutely, positively ridiculous. Who cares if it’s cultural, religious, or if he just FEELS like having long hair? A boy having long hair doesn’t interfere with the school whatsoever. It changes absolutely nothing. What a waste of time, effort, and news.”
“it’s GENDER discrimination. if girls can have their hair long, they have no right to restrict a boy from doing the same.”
“Well, I am of two thoughts on this.

A school should be able to make whatever dress code rules they want (uniforms, skirt length, etc.). However, I am not inclined to support that right in regards to haircuts, UNLESS it is a private school or a school of choice where the parents are choosing to enroll the student, thereby choosing to abide by its rules.

When we are talking about the default school system–public/government schools are a default system because if the parents for whatever reason do not exercise their right to choose a private school, tutor, or homeschool, then they are obligated by compulsory laws to enroll the child in a public/government school–I think there should be accommodation of religious beliefs in regards to haircuts and dress as long as the exercise of that right does not violate decency or cause a health hazard.”
“Quote: …I think there should be accommodation of religious beliefs in regards to haircuts and dress as long as the exercise of that right does not violate decency or cause a health hazard.
Especially since it’s apparently such a non-concern that they grant an exception for half the kids simply because they’re girls.

I’d say it’s religious and gender discrimination myself.”
“If the hair is not cut because of religious reasons then I think there is a major law suit coming against this district. This sounds like a case the ACLU (not that I agree with them most of the time) would pick up and run with.”
“What a bunch of BS! How is it a health and hygiene issue? Because he is a boy he can’t keep neat and clean? Baloney! Just another way for gov school to exercise control and flex their muscles.”
“Long hair on a boy is not for me…FOR ME! I totally respect the religious/cultural reasons for not cutting their son’s hair. It looked neat and well braided in the video, and from what I saw, should not interfere with his day to day activities at the school~they showed him at home and he was managing horses for goodness sakes, and the hair did not seem to bother him one bit! If it is a religious/cultural issue, then by all means don’t cut the hair and fight the school!”
“The school district is wrong, and I have no doubt they will loose. I was surprised there was a public school that dictated hair styles other than the generic “it must be neat and clean”. ”
“So, is it ok for a public school to deny admittance to a female student who is veiled? Or forbid Christian students from taking off on Good Friday?
When public schools begin to restrict the religious freedoms of it’s students, our society will forever be irreversibly doomed.”
“I think the rule itself both reflects the attitudes of the people in the area and is the cause of perpetuating those attitudes as well.

There are quite a few religions that have rules about hair that do not conform to this school’s rule and just by having the rule they are teaching children that all people who have such beliefs are “outsiders.”

No doubt, we all live with rules, but what rule would make you fight against it because it would either infringe on your lifestyle too much or would make you break a covenant within your religious beliefs? What if the same school had a rule about headwear–I would imagine that they do–and did not allow an Mennonite girl to wear the traditional head covering, would everyone feel different about that? If that would be more worth fighting for, I would ask why. Because of the religion or because modesty is more acceptable or because it is a girl rather than a boy?”
“It is a necessity, provided by the government, to educate the masses, and because of that, it also needs be a servant to the masses, but there also needs to be a balance so that the rules that serve the majority do not unfairly overrule the minorities. Here is only one Native American child in a school district just asking that he can attend school as he is, without having to cut his hair.

I just find it so ironic how “tolerance” is taught in government schools. What they really teach is we will be tolerant of you after you have conformed to what we can tolerate. In this case, we will tolerate you as a Native American, but you must conform so that you do not look like you are Native American, so that can tolerate you. Does that really work?”
“No one wants tolerance…everyone wants conformity to their own belief system.”

“I completely disagree with what this school is doing.

The policy in general, is an attempt by the school to quash any individuality of the students. It’s not a health/hygiene issue, as long as the hair is kept clean & taken care of. It’s not a distraction to other children, preventing them from getting an education. I mean, seriously, when I was in school, people’s hair was the least distracting thing (even 4in neon green, spiked mohawks). This policy is simply there to make all students look as much alike as possible.

In regards to this specific child, the school is violating his 1st amendment rights. The fact that the principal refuses to allow this child to enter school because his father cannot point to a passage in a Holy Book to prove that this is in fact part of their belief system, is ridiculous. American Indian heritage, culture, and religions are passed down orally from generation to generation. To my knowledge, there has NEVER been a Holy Book for any American Indian religion. The fact that the school will only accept proof of that kind basically says that the school does not view this family’s religion as a legitimate one, simply because it does not have a Holy Book.

This story really angers me. A public school should not be able to have a dress code that strict, for one thing. Plus, there is no real reason for them to tell this family that their son cannot attend. They are crossing over boundaries that no public school should ever be allowed to cross. If it was a private school, that would be a different story. Public schools are required to accept all students within their district. They cannot be selective about their student body. That’s why it’s a PUBLIC school. I hope that the principal is fired for this discrimination.”
“There would be no need for tolerance if people did not judge themselves superior to others different from themselves in the first place. I have noticed that even the people who pride themselves of being highly tolerant have expressed definite intolerance of people they judge to be intolerant.

The truth is we all want some measure of conformity because it makes us more comfortable. This is one of the reasons people of differing cultures and faiths naturally create subcommunities in cities. It is a natural desire for us to be with others similar to ourselves.

The point is that length of this child’s hair makes people uncomfortable, even fearful that if the rules are changed for this one thing then there will be no end to the changes in the rules and perhaps anarchy will rule, which is an extreme. The one absolute certainty in life is change and yet it is the one thing people fear the most. It simply is the fear of change that makes people want to keep this rule unchanged and without exceptions.”
“if the school’s major reason for no long hair is that it could endanger someone, then they should either apply the rules to girls as well or find a compromise [e.g. long hair needs to be in a pony tail or braided back].

I don’t have a problem with a school creating and enforcing a dress code, but it should be equally enforced across the board. If the reason for the long hair needing to be cut is that it’s a possible hazard, then that would be true for girls as well.”
“I understand the need for rules & limits. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have any. I do think, however, that many of them go beyond what they should be allowed to dictate. Yes, I think that kids should have to dress appropriately for school. Underwear should not be seen (on boys or girls), clothes endorsing drugs or alcohol should not be allowed, girls should wear skirts of a decent length & their shirts should cover their midriffs. However, if a child wants to dye their hair blue, and their parents agree, what right does the public school have to say they can’t? I can see how a girl dressed in a mini skirt & a shirt that’s barely more than a sports bra could be distracting, possibly to the point of affecting other students’ education (especially the boys who are too busy staring at her to pay attention to their math lesson). But, will someone having blue streaks in their hair, wearing a necklace, or having a nose ring really affect anyone’s education? I don’t think so. Many of the things that public schools are now enforcing as dress code policy should be up to the parents, not the school. Maybe if schools paid less attention to the way the students look and more attention to providing them with an actual education, we wouldn’t have so many high school graduates who are illiterate or below 5th grade level math skills.”
“I feel wearing different attire is different than asking someone to cut their hair. Changing your clothes for school is different because when you get home you can wear what you want and go back to showing your own style. Having long hair which is a part of my heritage, it would completely change someone’s appearance permanently if they were asked to cut their braid off. I have many family photos of my grandparents/great grandparents having long braids (American Indian) and I don’t think they would have cut their hair because a school told them to.”
“I love this quote:

“In my 20 years in education, I’ve never had a kindergartner refuse to follow the rules of the school district,” Rhodes says. “So this is uncharted territory for us, too.”

That is so laughable, I mean has this guy never met a kid before. Lets see, talking in class when the teacher is talking, hitting, spitting, chewing gum, throwing toys , ……………. …………. …………………. …………………………. …………. ………………….. ………………………. …this us simple a stupid statement.

More seriously however is the idea that this could just a easily be a Mennonite or Amish female who wanted to cover the hair and is told they cannot wear a hat, a Muslim who wants to wear a garment that does not meet school dress code, a student from an African culture that requires the head to be shaved, or some other thing that is a no-no according to many dress codes. We have to preserve religious expression where it is reasonable and these folks need an exemption.”
“I found this statement by the superintendent very telling

Quote: “[The school board is] pretty solid, and they’re proud of the Needville heritage we have here,” Rhodes says. “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.”

In other words, “we’re strictly Christian and we refuse to allow other beliefs and practices into our schools”. Trust me, I’m all about protecting the rights to practice my faith, but that can only happen if other faiths also have the right to practice theirs.

Aside from the fact that other court cases have already ruled that Native Americans have the right to keep their hair long despite school rules. What makes Needville think it’s so special that the law doesn’t apply to them?”

“I almost spit out my food when I read they were considering putting him with his own teacher. How does that solve anything? AND that is totally contradicting. He would still be at the school with long hair…PLUS it would wasting a heck of a lot of tax dollars…all because the school is too stubborn about it.

It seems like the super just has a hard head and is now grasping at anything he can find.

I can honestly see both sides of this, but there is a point where it all must come to an end and the school needs to be more tolerant. You can clearly see the families values and religion are sincere.”
“This whole thing is also very sexist. If a girl can have long hair and it’s not unsanitary, then a boy can too.”
“”A school district is a reflection of the community. We’ve consistently been very conservatively dressed, very conservatively disciplined. 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.”

What is the “right point” and how is that decided. This is such a controlling and sexist statement.

“”How can it be outdated? How many doctors, professionals, lawyers, look at your military branches, look at bankers, how many of them have long hair? How many have beards? How many have body piercings all over their face?””

Yeah and how many are Native American? The kid doesn’t have a beard and this isn’t about facial piercings. It is about hair being sacred to them. What is wrong with this child being taught and immersed in his heritage?

Too often people toss their heritage to the wayside because the system or government demands conformity. Does this family see Needville as hick and small minded? Who knows. I sure do. I grew up in a small town not far from here where conformity was shoved down your throat. Anything perceived as different or odd and you are the target.

I am proud of his parents for not backing down. I’d stand up for what I believe in as well. Good for them to take a stand! Will the system back down and let him in? Probably not. But I still applaud them for taking a stand.”
“How about this tid-bit:

” The district has an alternative disciplinary school, but Adriel is too young to be assigned to that.”

Wow, I didn’t know having long hair required an alternative disciplinary school.”.


Personally speaking, I find the conduct of the superintendent appalling & an embarrassment. I honestly feel that my tax dollars would be better spent building a new high school rather than denying a 5 yr old boy his Constitutional rights.


***** **********



On the CNN website I came across a recent issue your school district is facing, specifically the issue arround Adriel Arocha and his hair length.

While I agree that rules ought to be followed, I firmly believe that some rules are unnecessary and create problems rather than prevent them. And one such rule is an inherently sexist rule about male hair length. How does a boy having long hair interfere or detract/distract from a proper education? Such a rule does not improve any aspect of education. Instead, it creates an issue where one need not exist.

Do the right thing: get rid of frivolous, divisive rules and let this child have an education.


“If long hair is the worst of your problems as a school district, kudos to you! I’m eager to hear about all the other penny ante rules that you make up for your students next.

Gee, in the four years I taught in the Detroit public school system I had to deal with students fighting in class, bringing guns to class, getting killed and thrown in a dumpster, and being pregnant before they’d even learned how to solve for x. If only I’d thought to throw them out of school because I didn’t like the length of their hair I would have been much farther ahead.”


Your discrimination of the Native American child is disgusting and beyond immoral.

I have taken the liberty of publishing your school’s contact information in as many places as I can on the Internet and have forwarded news items detailing your hateful and discriminatory practices to everyone on my mailing list, as well as sending multiple emails to the national and Texas chapters of the ACLU. I have also encouraged everyone that I can to do the same.

Only hypocrites would attempt to teach civics to children they wish to “assert authority” over (that is what your dress code states, correct?)

You should be ashamed of yourselves and your despicable behavior.


July 19, 2008



Kenney was on CNN today for a short live interview. He was nervous but I think he did pretty well. We were stuck in traffic and almost didn’t make it to the studio on time. The second he walked in they threw a microphone and earpiece onto him and started the interview. I guess that means our little problem is national news now.

 After some discussion, we’ve decided to limit how much more Adriel will appear in the news. The last few weeks have been very disruptive for him and we feel its time for him to get back to being a regular little boy. I assume that the news interest will die down for a bit while we get ready for the next step anyway. We picked up the keys to our new house today but there is still no power or water hooked up yet.

 We walked through the house today with our home salesman for an inspection. Its so much nicer than we expected and Adriel had a wonderful time deciding which bedroom to pick for his own. He chose one that had a better view of the horse pasture so he can keep an eye on Nipper (his pony) from his window.

 We’re going mailbox shopping in the morning and probably picking out paint and a new clothes dryer. Our old one is gas and the new house is all electric. I hope to do some grid-tied solar panels in the near future to help cut down on our electricity bills.  I guess those folks calling us “hippies” had no idea how right they are.

Just the facts ma’am…

July 18, 2008

Since no matter what we do or say, somehow the facts get scrambled I decided to point out a few things that have been said that are not true.

Kenney is not now nor has he ever been a Baptist. Nothing against Baptists but for some reason Mr. Rhodes stated that he was to the press and it keeps getting repeated. Once again, Kenney is not Baptist.

Kenney is Native American  and we do have DNA test results to back that up. No, he does not have any government issued cards saying he is Native. He prefers not to be registered since that is what is done to animals. The other surviving group of  minorities to be issued numbers don’t like to be asked about that either. Got it? Good.

Once more, repeat it with me now anyone can adopt any religion they want to without being born into it. Its called the land of the free for a fucking reason.

I am white, caucasion, anglo etc. Red hair and hazel eyes, its pretty easy to figure out what I am and what I am not. See previous factoid please.

We are raising our son as we see fit. We are teaching him our spirituality and beliefs.

 We will not can not just cut his hair.

We will not just move somewhere more tolerant.

We will not just go back where we came from.

We do not practice some made up religion.

We do not want to break rules just for the hell of it.

We are not just looking for attention. If all we wanted was some attention we would get it in a way that was much less stressful and time consuming.

If this wasn’t important to us, we wouldn’t be doing it.

People keep saying maybe we should have looked into the community we chose to move to a little more before we decided to move there.

Well, we did. There were no signs posted saying “Beware! Needville is at least fifty years behind the times when it comes to tolerance and equality! No instead I found out that crime is low and the schools have good ratings. Why wouldn’t we want to move there? Nobody ever said Needville will spiral into the sun if a little boy with long hair goes to school there! Nope, not a one. All we ever saw was a nice quiet little town where our son could be raised with plenty of space to roam under the Texas sky.

Now for a little story time.

Not too long ago, there was a man tying to push his broken down truck down Needville-Fairchild Road. People were passing him by and shouting at him and throwing things as people tend to do when someone else inconvienences them with their own bad luck. No one stopped to help him push that truck down that road on that hot country day.

 Then another man came along and saw the first man toiling away trying to get that truck to the service station. The second man stopped and got out of his own truck to help the first man push. The first man said, why don’t you push my truck with yours instead of getting all tired out? The second man said he would rather push with his hands so he didn’t mess up the first man’s truck. The first man said it was ok and the second man got back into his truch and pushed the broken truck down the road to the gas station where the problem could get fixed.

When they got to the gas station, the second man got out to check on the first man and say goodbye. The first man tried to give him a few dollars for his trouble but the second man refused saying “it was the right thing to do, that is how I was raised”.

The first man thanked him and said “that is a mighty Christian thing to son”. The second man kind of smiled and said, “no sir, it was the right thing to do. I haven’t stepped foot inside a Christian church in over 14 years. Those men who were passing you by and throwing trash and angry words at you were the Christians”.

The second man was Kenney.


Now there was a man at the board meeting talking about his pride in Needville and how much he respected the traditions there. He pretty much echoed the other citizen speakers at the meeting but he was louder and obnoxious about it. That “gentleman” just like the others didn’t even have the courtesy to offer a lady his seat. A lady who just finished her last cancer treatment and is only just now starting to re-grow her hair and regain her health. That nearly bald lady that had to stand with the rest of us throughout the meeting wasn’t sporting some new fashion trend, that lady was my mom.

There were some Native gentlemen at the meeting and some native gentleman of Needville that were not. I think you know who you are.

This is exactly what the citizens of Needville talk about when they are talking about not allowing my son into school with his braids. They love to talk about their pride and traditions and how well they raise their children. How well mannered their kids are and how repectable the people of Needville are.

Kenney and I know that those of you that do not want our son to go to school with his long hair don’t like us. Thats fine, we don’t expect everyone to like us and well, frankly we really don’t care. But know this, if Kenney were ever seated in a room and a lady had to stand, he would give his chair up in an instant no matter what his feeling were for that lady because that is the way he was raised. Those are his traditions and upbringing and I am proud of him.



Various articles and news clips.

July 18, 2008

I’ve been getting calls and emails from all over the US today from people who have seen our story on the news or in papers.  Who knew that two little braids would cause such a fuss? Here are the latest ones I could find. Many are the same story just on different channels. I tried to stick to just news programs and papers but there is at least one blog that I couldn’t pass up. 😉

Oh and if you saw the Chronicle article today (the paper not the website) then you probably saw the photo of Kenney being quieted by the police. You see, one of the proud and traditional Needville gentlemen wanted to know what Kenney’s “Indian Number” was. You know, cause all “real indians” have one. Just like all registered cattle have ear tags or brands and show doggies have registration papers. I don’t think their is any other group of people in the US required to get registered like an animal. Needless to say they had a bit of a heated discussion.

See you in the papers.

Channel 2 (with guest appearances by Needville residents opposed to our son’s rights)

The Houston Chronicle

Dallas/Fort Worth Area NBC

Repeat of Channel 2’s coverage but the comments gave me quite a giggle!

Channel 2 in Cahrleston South Carolina

Fort Bend Now follow up story

KLBJ News Radion in Austin, Tx


Channel 3 in Chattanooga

North Dakota

Lubbock News Radio 1420

First Coast News

KMOT North Dakota

KCBY Oregon (its way down there under the long listing of superintendent vacancies)

I don’t know who Ogre is but he (or she) is awesome.

Azteca America (I’m not sure where it is on the website but their news crew was very nice!)


July 17, 2008

 As expected, our appeal was denied. The school board threw in a surprise though, it was denied on a technicality. Since we don’t live there oficially yet and Adriel is not a student yet, they didn’t have to do anything other than uphold Mr. Rhodes ruling. An interesting twist, I suppose.  All it means is once we have a utility bill in hand showing we reside in Needville, the whole process will start over.  Thats ok, practice makes perfect as they say.

 We got there just before the meeting started and the room was packed. Its funny, in a room full of people so eager to protect their proud traditions, you’d think at least one of the gentlemen in the audience would have the courtesy to give up their seat to my mother who is recovering from cancer. I guess chivalry really is dead, huh?

 A few citizens had signed up to address the board. The first one called didn’t want to go first so she passed on her turn. The ones that did speak all said the same thing. “…..I hope the board uphold’s the superintendent’s decision…..” I don’t think I have ever seen more imature behavior from an elderly person ever. There was one old woman in the audience rolling her eyes and making faces the whole time. Its pretty sad when my five year old son was able to behave himself better than someone that old.

 When the time came for us to speak, I started off and then Kenney spoke. I don’t really remember what we said, I only remember being angry and my voice shaking. We both recorded it and there were news cameras rolling so I suppose I’ll listen to it later. Right now I am tired and want to go to bed.

 After we spoke a new friend addressed the board. He is Cody Swimmer of the American Indian Movement, South Texas branch. He spoke eloquently and there were some teary eyes in the room. Some were in the audience and mine were wet too. I hate getting emotional but it is difficult not to during all of this. I like Cody a lot. I have only just met him and already I feel like he is family.

 While we have not yet settled on who will be representing us legally, a lawyer spoke for our cause as well. We only met about 45 minutes before the meeting but he signed up to address the board and was given time to speak. Mr. Hale of Hale & Associates spoke of the outdated hair length rule and religious aspects of hair. I’m sure the opposers did not really care what any of us had to say. Their minds have been made up and I don’t think any amount of logic will change that.

 Oh! I almost forgot, the Department of Justice sent the school board a letter. I don’t know what it said but I did get a phone call before the meeting letting me know it had been sent.

I met some new friends that live in Needville. A couple who has chosen to homeschool because due to their own disagreement with the school board came to the meeting to show some support. We have been chatting online for a while now but only just got to meet tonight. Our children will be great friends I think. The boys have long hair and so does the dad. Its nice to have friends in the community.

Anyway, here is a link to one of teh stories taht went on tonight:,0,5788583.htmlstory

I have not looked up the rest but I got business cards from channel 2, channel 39, the Houston Chronicle, teh Fort Bend Herald and the Houston Press. I’m sure if you check their repective websites you can get the stories.

For those wondering what the next step is; as soon as our utilities are hooked up at the new house we will move in. Adriel will be enrolled once we have proof of residence (ie. a utility bill). We will take hime to school and the whole process will start over again. Level 1, Level 2 and then Level 3 appeals, that is, unless they decide to just let him go to school on their own. Perhaps they” arrange for a bigger room next time. 😉

A Safety Disclaimer

July 15, 2008

Before my son’s pictures end up on I figured I’d better say this.

Adriel always wears a helmet and proper footwear when riding. His hair is also kept braided so it is out of the way and not blowing all over the place. Of course, photos of properly helmeted children don’t sell newspapers so  he has his hair blowing wildly and no saddle, bridle or safety equipment in sight.

 If it makes you feel any better, Grandma was just outside of the frame of the photo at Nipper’s head and Kenney and I were also just outside of the photo ready to steady Adriel should Nippers do anything funny. Either way, these are great photos that show what not to do with kids and horses.

Luckily, Nipper is somewhere in his 20s and could care less what anyone does to him as long as he gets his feed bucket every day.

As a side note, I love the Fugly Horse of the Day blog. Its snarky, educational and a blast to read. If Adriel’s pictures end up there, I would not be surprised but I would not be upset by it either.  Someone has to try to teach all the idiots out there what not to do.

F.H.O.T.D. isn’t all negative though. Somewhere in there is a post about my mom’s old Appy mare that we had to put down a few years ago. She was 37 and had carried 4 generations of our family. She was Adriel’s first horse and the first horse I became aquainted with as a child. My mom bought her when Girlie was a four year old and moved her all the way from Pennsylvania to Texas. Here she is not long before her death with Adriel as a two year old.

Anyway, here are the pictures from the Chronicle website.

I promise next time he’ll have on his helmet and boots.

Houston Chronicle Article

July 15, 2008

At the moment, it is on the first page of the Chronicle’s website.

Houston Press Article

July 10, 2008

This is a repost of my myspace blog so some of it is about our school problem and some of it is about unrelated stuff. Thanks for reading. 🙂



Paul Knight at The Houston Press wrote an article about our problem. I think its a well written article that manages to show both sides in an unbiased way. I need to go out and pick up a copy or two since there is also an article about the local Goth scene that mentions a couple of friends of ours. Anyway, here is the link to the article on Adriel’s hair.


A Native American Family Fights Against Hair Length Rules

When five-year-old Adriel Arocha ran afoul of the Needville school district, getting cut off wasn’t an option for his parents

By Paul Knight

published: July 10, 2008

Five-year-old Adriel Arocha has been mistakenly called a pretty little girl. 

“No, I’m a boy,” Adriel told one stranger. “I have a penis.”

Adriel’s long, ink-black hair caused the confusion. He’s never had a haircut.

His father, Kenney Arocha, is part Native American. He teaches spiritual beliefs to his son that his grandfather and uncles taught to him. Michelle Betenbaugh, Arocha’s wife and Adriel’s mother, isn’t Native American, but she supports raising her son as such.

“I’m an Indian,” Adriel says. “How long my hair is, it tells me how long I’ve been here.”

Currently living in Stafford, Arocha plans to move his family to Needville, a town of about 3,000 residents, 40 miles southwest of Houston. The family owns about 50 acres in Needville, and Arocha and Betenbaugh want to turn the land into a sustainable farm, teaching Adriel where food comes from and the importance of conservation.

“We like the idea of trying to minimize our impact,” Arocha says.

Adriel’s parents want to enroll him at Needville Elementary School. Betenbaugh sent an e-mail to the principal, asking about kindergarten and explaining Adriel’s long hair. The principal replied that the district doesn’t allow long hair on boys.

On June 9, the family met with Curtis Rhodes, the Needville superintendent. Rhodes asked what religion upheld that Adriel could not cut his hair. The family explained there wasn’t a church or doctrine they followed, but they believe that Adriel’s hair is sacred.

Arocha said that his belief is to cut his hair after life-changing events, such as mourning the death of someone he loves.

Rhodes told the family Adriel’s hair would have to go.

“I’ve got a lot of friends that are Native-American Indians from Oklahoma, South Dakota, lot of places, some over in ­Louisiana in the Choctaw Nation, and they all cut their hair,” Rhodes says. “We’re not going to succumb to everything and just wash away our policies and procedures.”

Since the meeting, Arocha and Betenbaugh have been preparing to fight Rhodes and the school district. The family contacted the American Indian Movement, which has offered to speak to district officials. They also contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, which is deciding whether to take the case.

The superintendent has suggested a possible solution would be to put Adriel in a classroom apart from other students with his own teacher. The district has an alternative disciplinary school, but Adriel is too young to be assigned to that.

“In my 20 years in education, I’ve never had a kindergartner refuse to follow the rules of the school district,” Rhodes says. “So this is uncharted territory for us, too.”

Arocha and Betenbaugh aren’t budging. They plan to take Adriel to kindergarten once the school year starts, even if his teachers send him home every day.

“In my fantasy world, I would have went in, pled my case, let them meet my son, and the community I’ve chosen to live in would have said, ‘Hey, I want to be progressive.’ Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened,” Arocha says. “We had one person tell us it would be easier to sell the property and move. They didn’t say it maliciously. They just said it would be easier on ourselves and our son if we moved to a more tolerant ­environment.”

Needville promotes itself as the town “where thousands live the way millions wish they could.” The slogan is painted on signs around town and posted on the city’s Chamber of Commerce Web site.

The sprawl from Houston to Sugar Land to Richmond hasn’t touched the community. A couple feed supply stores and a family-owned hardware store remain downtown. Needville celebrates its annual Harvest Festival in October.

The population has grown some in recent years, but Rhodes believes it’s the town’s old-fashioned values that keep Needville appealing.

“We have a lot of people tell us all the time that they move here strictly for the school system. This is just from the opposite side. [Arocha and Betenbaugh] want to move in, yet they want to change this part to fit how they practice or what they believe in,” Rhodes says. “A school district is a reflection of the community. We’ve consistently been very conservatively dressed, very conservatively disciplined. 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.”

He continues, “How can it be outdated? How many doctors, professionals, lawyers, look at your military branches, look at bankers, how many of them have long hair? How many have beards? How many have body piercings all over their face?”

Rhodes graduated from Needville High School in 1983, when his father was superintendent in the neighboring town of Damon. His grandfather had been a superintendent as well.

“I’ve never had a hair past my ears,” Rhodes says. “I’m pretty much a rule follower. I’m not out to, just because there’s a rule I got to try to break it. I wasn’t raised that way, I wasn’t genetically put together that way. If they say do this, I’m going to do it.”

When Rhodes married, he married a woman born and raised in Needville. The couple left the town when they were younger, but returned to raise their kids.

“If you want to think we’re backwards…no one is asking you to move to Needville and have these opinions invoked on you,” Rhodes says. “All the kids I graduated with — there’s a bunch of us back in Needville — we never thought we’d come back. Backwards isn’t all that bad when you become the parent.”

Arocha’s father and mother didn’t embrace their Native American heritage. By Arocha’s calculations, his family descends from a southwestern Apache tribe that split for Mexico in the 1880s, in fear of being herded onto a reservation. His ancestors are mixed Spanish-Apache, and a DNA profile has confirmed this.

Arocha’s family presented itself as Mexican to blend in with families in Rosenberg, where Arocha was raised.

But he remembers a grandfather and uncles who wore long hair and spoke of Apache culture. Arocha’s hair grew long when he was a child. The day before kindergarten started, however, Arocha’s mother took him to the barber for a buzz cut.

“I remember screaming, because I didn’t understand. Then I went home, and my mom said I could go to school,” Arocha says. “I don’t fault her for it. It was easier for her; it was what was expected to do.”

Arocha hasn’t cut his hair since he met Betenbaugh about ten years ago. Today he owns a clothing company in which he designs corsets and other pieces of exotic clothing. Betenbaugh is his seamstress. They sell many of their designs to shops in the Montrose area.

A few years ago, Arocha had several surgeries to correct malformations in his brain, and he pleaded with the doctors not to shave his head. The doctors eventually agreed.

“When we found out Michelle was pregnant, it lit a fire under me,” Arocha says. “I had tried assimilating, but it never quite worked.”

“To some, long hair may seem to be a trivial issue,” writes Timothy Zahniser in the American Indian Law Review. “What is not trivial is a study of Big Sandy…which provides an excellent academic study of constitutional personal liberty.”

Zahniser’s article covers a court case from about 15 years ago, when a group of students from the Alabama and Coushatta Indian tribes sued the Big Sandy Independent School District in Polk County.

The case started when a tenth grader was instructed by the principal at Big Sandy High School to cut his hair. The student refused and was sent to in-school detention. Other male students were later placed in detention for the same reason.

Parents of the students approved of the long hair, citing religious beliefs, though most of the parents openly practiced ­Christianity.

The judge in the Big Sandy case ruled that “the wearing of long hair for religious reasons is protected, even though it is not a fundamental tenet of Native American religion.”

“To [Native American] students, the wearing of long hair can have a religious significance and can be regarded as representative of pride in their culture and traditions. Parents have a right to encourage and supervise that pride,” Zahniser writes. “The right of Native American students in public schools to wear long hair should not be infringed.”

The Needville school district had a taste of lawsuit over its policies in 2004. In that case, a middle-school girl wore a T-shirt displaying the phrase, “Somebody went to HOOVER DAM, and all I got was this DAM shirt.”

The first day the girl wore the shirt, the principal told her to change or go home. She had an extra shirt and changed.

But the girl wore the shirt for six consecutive days. The principal continued to tell the girl to change, and her parents took her home each day.

“We’ll let her come to school as long as she can wear her T-shirt,” J.R. Mercer, the girl’s father, told the Fort Bend Herald-Coaster.

The family sued for $10,000 for each day the girl missed school, and wanted the school board to stop opening its meetings with prayer. The suit was eventually ­dismissed.

Rhodes wasn’t superintendent during the T-shirt lawsuit, and he doesn’t see any parallels between that case and Arocha’s ­argument.

“As we look at it, we have an individual from Stafford who is unhappy, or doesn’t agree with my decision that if their child were to come here, we would have him cut his hair. I haven’t seen where religion comes into this yet,” Rhodes says. “We want to be fair and nondiscriminatory, yet it has to have standardization to it. Otherwise, I’m going to come in and say, ‘Well, my child doesn’t believe in listening to teachers.’ How bizarre can you get? You’ve got to have rules and order anywhere you go and anything you do.”

After Rhodes ruled that Adriel would have to cut his hair, he also said the family could appeal his decision. Rhodes sent the family appeal forms, and Arocha and Betenbaugh will present a case to the Needville school board at a meeting on July 16.

“[The school board is] pretty solid, and they’re proud of the Needville heritage we have here,” Rhodes says. “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.”

Arocha and Betenbaugh expect the school board to uphold the ruling, and the next step is a lawsuit. If the American Indian Movement or the ACLU doesn’t provide lawyers, Betenbaugh says the family will hire its own.

“I don’t want this to go to trial; I don’t want them to have to waste their money to defend this,” Arocha says. “They had an individual burn down part of their high school last year. I would much rather them spend their money fixing the high school than having to hire a lawyer to defend something that’s constitutionally protected.”

When the family started dealing with the school disrict, Betenbaugh launched a blog, Rhodes says the Web site has passed through Needville like hot fire.

“There’s been some statements thrown by the family about bashing Needville,” he says. “I’ve heard about it at the feed store and downtown at the restaurants. Needville is going to stand tight and unified. We’re still going to be Needville.”

Arocha says that when this started, he explained the problem to Adriel. And he believes that his son understands.

“I don’t want to cut my hair, so we’re having an argument,” Adriel says. “I want to go to school. I don’t know how to read. I’ve never gone to daycare, so I really want to go.”

Arocha and Betenbaugh bought the land in Needville in October. Neither expected such a problem, but now that one exists, Arocha believes the issue has become bigger than him or Adriel.

“The Native American Freedom of Religion Act was passed in 1978. I was three. I was three when my people were finally given the ability to express their religious beliefs,” he says. “Here we are, 30 years later, and they want me to give it back. I don’t feel like I can waver on this.”


The only corrections I have are that Adriel’s hair is brown not black and we only do custom corsets, not sell to local stores. I probably would if I had more time though.

Just for fun, here is the local Goth scene article. I’m sure I’ll get all kinds of “OMG! Ur a devil worshipper!” shit now. Oh well, see you at Underworld!

Peeking Inside the Shadowy Crypt of Houston’s Goth Community

By Chris Gray

published: July 10, 2008

Thursday is a red-letter day for a curious, long-lived musical subculture that, the rest of the year, generally favors black. Bauhaus founder and frontman Peter Murphy is playing Meridian, his first Houston performance in several years. In certain circles, it’s like Elvis or the Dalai Lama dropping by. Seriously. 

“There is no one like him right now,” says Jill McKee, Meridian promotions manager and a Murphy/Bauhaus fan for some 20 years. “Icon is the only word I can think of. He’s a consummate performer.” 

Bauhaus formed in Northampton, England, in 1978, in the immediate wake of the UK’s punk-rock explosion. Their music fused elements of punk, David Bowie-style glam-rock, Hammer horror-film imagery and the audience-provoking aesthetic of “Theater of Cruelty” founder Antonin Artaud, in whose honor Bauhaus named a song on their 1983 album Burning from the Inside.

Especially after the band appeared performing nine-minute opus “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” in The Hunger — Tony Scott’s 1983 vampire film starring Bowie, Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon — Murphy and Bauhaus have come to represent the macabre strain of post-punk known as Goth in many, even most, people’s minds. And ever since, both musically and visually, Goth has been one of the easiest styles to identify and also one of the trickiest to define.

Goth likely first trickled into Houston on the airwaves of KTRU’s “S&M” program, the famous three-hour punk and New Wave show that ran Friday nights from 1979 to 1990. David Sadof, who would later spin several of the bands he heard on “S&M” on shows for Houston stations such as KLOL and The Buzz, remembers tuning in while still in high school, around 1980 or ’81.

“It was not a Gothic show at all, by any means, but it was where you might hear XTC, and you might hear Siouxsie & the Banshees and some of these groups,” he says. “It’s quite possible the bands who were in existence at that time may have been played on that show.”

From 1982 to 1986, Sadof was a DJ on KSHU, the student-run radio station (90.5 FM) at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. Again on Friday nights, he played what was then known as “alternative” music for an audience comprised of both college students and guests of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Some prisoners would write letters saying how much they enjoyed the show, he recalls, “but we weren’t allowed to answer, for obvious reasons.”

Sadof played mostly what he calls the “neo-psychedelic” music of R.E.M., Echo & the Bunnymen and Robyn Hitchcock, for example, but also groups like Bauhaus, Joy Division, the Cure and Mission UK, bands who took the remnants of punk rock in a decidedly darker direction and began being labeled “Goth” or “goth-rock.” He left heavier, less radio-friendly bands like Christian­ Death and the Virgin Prunes alone, but continued incorporating Goth’s more accessible strains into his “Exposure” program on KLOL upon graduating and moving back to Houston.

“I would definitely include that music in my show,” he says. “I would play Sisters of Mercy, songs like ‘Lucretia My Reflection’ and ‘This Corrosion,’ Mission UK and several other groups of that ilk. I found that because that music was included, I definitely had a segment of my audience that was the Goth crowd.”

This crowd rapidly began making itself at home at Numbers, which hosted Siouxsie & the Banshees as early as 1980 and brought in a wealth of other Gothic acts — Killing Joke, Mission UK, Shriekback, Love & Rockets, Clan of Xymox, even some of the Cure’s first Texas shows — over the ensuing decade. It was the club’s weekly DJ nights, though, where Sisters of Mercy, the Cure and Bauhaus were in heavy rotation, attracting dark-minded youth from across the area.

“There were always these 15-year-old goth-rockers,” Sadof says. “It didn’t matter what year it was, you’d go to Numbers and there’d always be these 15-year-old Goth girls. They were ubiquitous.”

One such “Goth girl” was a young Clear Creek High School student who, once upon a time, found a Sisters of Mercy cassette at Sound Warehouse’s Baybrook Mall store. Today, as DJ Mina, she oversees Numbers’ Underworld nights, one of the local Goth community’s main gathering spots. Underworld began about nine years ago, and although the crowds ultimately proved too sparse to sustain it as a weekly event, Mina says it’s found better success every third Saturday (unless preempted by a special event), averaging between 200 and 300 people.

However, when it comes to how many of her Underworld flock actively identify themselves as Goth versus people who just show up because they like the music, Mina isn’t sure. This “Who’s more Goth?” debate began almost at the moment the genre was coined and intensified when many Gothic artists’ natural affinity for synthesizers, drum machines and dance music led to the rise of subgenres such as industrial (Ministry, KMFDM) and Electronic Body Music, or EBM (And One, Front 242, Nitzer Ebb) in the late ’80s and early ’90s. A few years after that, the mainstream popularity of artists like Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, who used heavy Goth imagery in many songs and videos, muddied the waters even further.

“There’s a lot of confusion,” Mina admits. “When I was younger, when I discovered the whole Gothic genre of music, it crossed over into the style of dress, but at that time that was kind of typical.

“If you were punk, you dressed punk,” Mina continues. “There was that kind of thing where your music represented you. Whereas now, as Goth has become more popular and mainstream, I think Goth is a form of expression for some people and not necessarily about the music.”

If Houston’s Goth community has never been especially large — especially when compared to places like New Orleans, hometown of Goth figureheads Marie Laveau and Anne Rice — it’s had its share of colorful characters. Sadof remembers a pale blond woman named Sarah whom he approached at a Dead Can Dance show about hosting a Goth episode of his Buzz show “What the Hell Is This?” Everybody knew Sarah, he chuckles, because she drove a hearse. Another key figure in local Goth lore is DJ and model Dana Dark, who Mina says has temporarily dropped out of the scene after having a baby.

Over the years, besides Numbers, local Goths have gravitated to places like Laveau’s in Montrose, the Vatican on Washington, the Axiom on McKinney and especially Power Tools, the dank basement club on Franklin Street downtown that to date is Numbers’ only serious rival as Goth’s Houston home base. (“I don’t know how many times I fell down those stairs,” laughs Mina.) Today, besides Underworld, the other major Goth outfit in town is the Havok collective headed by DJ Naika, which hosts the more industrial-leaning Ataxia night at Jet Lounge on Tuesdays, as well as special events at the Engine Room and its own recently acquired warehouse on Luell Street.

Similarly, the roster of local bands who qualify as Goth is fairly thin. Houston birthed bygone bands such as Bozo Porno Circus, Dethkultur BBQ and the Pain Teens, who married Goth to industrial, noise and metal. Still extant, though rarely playing out, is Asmodeus X, who made enough waves to warrant a 1999 Houston Press article. Today, Opulent, which also combines Goth with generous amounts of industrial, metal and dance music, is one of the few Houston Goth practitioners that books shows on a regular basis.

“Our scene is kind of low-key,” says Opulent frontman Allison Scott, whose band shares a practice space with Asmodeus X. “There’s bands out there, but they don’t play that much. It’s kind of hard to get support for it, to be quite honest with you. Some venues can be hard to get in, and because you’re not always playing with other Goth bands, it can be hard to match you up with somebody that you fit in with.”

Luckily, if there’s one thing Goths are used to by now, it’s not fitting in. Years of constant misconceptions and outright stereotyping have given rise to a community that’s unusually tolerant and accepting of outsiders. Besides, adds Mina, it’s not always that easy to spot a Goth. They’re not always the guy with too much eyeliner or the girl in fishnets.

“There are a lot of people that are into Gothic music that don’t look the part,” she says. “The way we feel about it, as far as my general group of people I hang out with and the people I attract to the club, is it’s more about the music. You don’t have to wear a certain color or fit a certain style. You don’t have to wear a corset.”

This just in! Religious freedom in schools will lead to the downfall of society!!!

July 9, 2008


Put on your foil hats kids, this is gonna be a good one.

 I seem to have aquired a new reader on livejournal with some interesting(?) theories. See comments here or read the italicized copy/paste.

</em></a></em></strong></font></a>[info]sluedeke ( wrote:

Jul. 8th, 2008 09:51 pm (UTC)
Bill of Rights
I agree with the Freedom of religion and brave soles have died in war so we can have this freedom and other freedoms. I also wanted to remind you that NISD is Public entity that reports to and is governed by the State of Texas. The First Amendment of the US Constitution (First 10 Amendments is the Bill of Rights) explicitly states the freedom of religion however it also states there shall be a separation of church and state. NISD does not have to change any rules for any religion. If they do make this one exception you’ll see a downfall of society while they have to make exceptions for all religions, then we lose focus on what a school is supposed to do… educate!

Also, you are wasting taxpayer money fighting the school when that money could be used to buy new books or update the classrooms with new computers or build a new High School to educate our children.

Thanks and Good Luck!

Really!?!? Somehow, society will fall if religious freedom is allowed as it is protected by law???? Well, shit! I better start diggin’ me one of them there fancy storm cellars out on the back 40! The end of times in near!!!! Break out the drink-aid!
Whisky Tango Foxtrot.        Seriously.
Is this it? The “can of worms” I was warned about?
Ok, so I tried to respons as politely as possible. I suppose that was my mistake, you know…trying to educate those who refuse to be educated.

</em></a></em></strong></font></a>[info]stitchwitch13 ( wrote:

Jul. 8th, 2008 10:03 pm (UTC)
Re: Bill of Rights
I’m not sure I see the connection with the school district allowing students to practice their own religions and the downfall of society. Could you explain how that works? It seems that a few other Needville residents have voiced similiar concerns and the thought makes no sense. I have asked before and still not recieved a coherent answer.

The seperation of church and state pertains to the rule that public schools may not teach religion or show preference to one religion or another. They do have to make exceptions to things like dress code when the dress code restricts a students ability to attend school and still practice their religion.

I’m not wasting anyone’s money, the school district is. Perhaps if NISD students were’nt burning down their own school then they wouldn’t have to worry about rebuilding.

Ok, I’ve tried to leave last years’ well publicized arson case out of this.  Its a tragedy that a historical building was destroyed and all those tests got burned up. Luckily the school was empty when it happened but its still a shame that it did. Unfortunatly for the folks waving the “We’re proud of our rules because they make exemplary students” flag, well I’m sorry to say it but the fact that one of their own students did it, kind of negates any “proof ” that the school dress code makes perfect people out of kids.
I am in no way shape or form, wasting anyone’s money. Should the school district uphold Mr. Rhode’s ruling and this thing end up becoming a lawsuit then it i their own doing.
Anyway, sluedeke’s reply was just as irrational…
</em></a></em></strong></font></a>[info]sluedeke ( wrote:

Jul. 9th, 2008 04:14 am (UTC)
You said it
You said it:

“The separation of church and state pertains to the rule that public schools may not teach religion or show preference to one religion or another.”

If the school allows your child to attend school without cutting his hair they are showing preference to your religion by allowing him to break the rules everyone must follow no matter what their religion is.

The downfall I am talking about is when one child gets special privileges, more are going to want it, the school won’t be able to focus on educating our children, our children grow up without the education they should have been receiving if the school didn’t have to put up with all the frivolous suites.

Yup, apparently religious freedom in school really does stop children from getting an education. I’m still not getting it. Really. Remember those laser beams in my previous post on long hair? Yeah…. foil hats people, foil hats. Maybe a foil jockstrap while your at it for some added protection.
Silly me, I responded again.

</em></a></em></strong></font></a>[info]stitchwitch13 ( wrote:

Jul. 9th, 2008 01:43 pm (UTC)
Re: You said it
I can see that explaining things to you is going to be difficult.

While schools may not show preference to one religion over another, they also cannot restrict anyone’s ability to practice their own religion. Students have the right to believe how they believe and practice those beliefs as long as they do not try to push their beliefs onto other students. Its ok for students to arrange group prayer times between classes but they may not preach to others who do not want them to. Thats really the only time a school can step in when it comes to religious matters.

Your downfall theory is quite flawed. Allowing Christian children to wear crosses, Muslim girls to wear headscarves, Jewish boys to wear yarmulkes and long sideburns, Native American boys to have long hair, Sikh boys to wear turbans and long hair etc… is not going to stop anyone from getting an education.

It just might even teach all of our children tolerance.

Your theory about as much sense as only allowing blonde-haired blue-eyed folks to reproduce while systematically killing off everyone else who does not conform to some whack-jobs idea of a master race.

And got this for my trouble:
</em></strong></font></a>[info]sluedeke ( wrote:

Jul. 9th, 2008 03:13 pm (UTC)
Re: You said it
I can see that education for your child is not your priority.

So the school has a rule and you are going to teach your child all rules are made to be broken. Good Job!

I get the feeling that reading comprehension is not strong with this one. Maybe s/he missed all the other posts about how getting my son into school is what this is all about?
I don’t know any other way to explain it, sorry.
For some reason, a few people seem to think I have no respect for rules. I do in fact have a great respect for rules (as long as they make sense that its) . Rules and dress codes are put in place for a reason and when that reason is based on something intelligent, I have no problem with them. Proper footwear for safety, properly fitted clothing for modesty… yes, I agree with those.
A few people have commented on my business. Yes, I do make corsets and yes, the word “fetish” is part of my business title. Somehow I fail to see how my little custom clothing business makes me some type of criminal who should not have the freedom to raise my child as I see fit.
I’m sure a few of you would be surprised to know that I have more than one job and I do not in fact, live off the government’s money as has been suggested in an email from a crotchety old lady.
Guess what? For forty hours a week (sometimes more if needed) I wear a uniform and abide by a dress code.