Another article worth mentioning….

  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.

7 Responses to “Another article worth mentioning….”

  1. Kamolika Says:

    This angers me beyond belief. Rhodes is talking about old-fashioned values, but hey, the Native American values came years before his version of ‘old-fashioned’ values so that point’s pretty much moot, isn’t it?

    “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.

    And no one asked Rhodes or his ancestors to slaughter millions of Native Americans and take over that land in the first place.

    I don’t know when people will learn to get some perspective.

  2. R Fussell Says:

    Wow, I’m stunned beyond belief. This story appeared on, so expect a lot of traffic, as well as support (and some nay sayers). This is up there with some of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever witnessed. The statements quoted in the story from the opposition are simply illogical and stupid. Even winning your case against them, I’d still move once it was decided, simply because attending a school that is run by such ignorant and unintelligent seeming people would not be in the best interest of the child. Please continue your fight, bring this to the forefront, ensure a victory over the half-thinking ideology of these failed officials, then pack up and leave to drive the point further while protecting your child from being taught in such a ridiculous system.

    “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,” but why? What is so disconcerting about long hair…no wait, a MALE with long hair, I’m sure the females have hair that exceeds these bounds, aside from being an attack on your spiritual beliefs, I feel this is as well a sexist ideal, and one that violates the equality between men and women, yet another mar on these ideologues.

    A statement of ignorance: “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.” Thus a rule exists, for no good reason, so you simply follow it. You sir, Rhodes, are UNFIT for duty in the position you hold, perhaps if you wish to better serve your community, you could become a trash collector, as I’ve noticed across the US many people are placing their trash cans beyond the sanctioned placement zone off the curb of their property, SOMEONE MUST ENFORCE THESE RULES, The point being, its a stupid nonsense rule, created for no good purpose, long hair on a male does not cause disruption EXCEPT for the fact that you bring it to light and thus yourself cause disruption. It is the school system who has made this a big deal, other students would not have thought twice about it, now they will, the responsibility for any and all disruption fall on you Mr. Rhodes, you, not this student.
    “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.” Indeed Mr. Rhodes? I guess going backwards is what you should do, I mean if your wife complains while cooking dinner, it’s ok to just beat her in Needville? I mean that’s inline with your backwards thinking, You should raise your children to understand a woman’s place while you’re at it, otherwise they may grow up and not keep their wives in check, right? Your statement Mr. Rhodes, disgusts me, Backwards thinking has absolutely no positive connotation, zero, zilch, Your statement here is in clear contradiction to your points, You clearly state that “opinions” are imposed, opinions Mr. Rhodes are not reasonable cause for ignoring the spiritual beliefs of others and their rights to uphold them. While we’re at it, you are so intent on following the rules, yet you allow them violated by the prayers held in the state sanctioned school board hearings, THIS is technically illegal, and has much precedent to the fact.

    I wish you the best of luck Arochas, I hope your struggle proves the point and brings this institution of education a closer to modern times. And Mr. Rhodes, if you ever read this, I wish you look as well, perhaps through a lucky draw, you’ll realize your ignorance and attempt to change it. You spend taxpayer money fighting a stupid battle, you try to bring home points that mean nothing, you live in ignorance. Perhaps with a little luck, you will be enlightened, or perhaps this would be asking for more luck than is available, I hope not.

    I’m quite diluted in my native heritage (at only 1/8th of a Cherokee bloodline) I still feel strongly about this, and find it a great unustice, That feeling, is not diluted. Again, Good luck.

  3. hall monitor Says:

    Check out for the latest Texas education policy… They’re making students who violate dress code wear jump suits! Good stuff.

  4. Tracy Rosen Says:

    Your story amazes me. It floors me that the school district is putting a dress code before a child/family’s beliefs. A few of us are writing about it here, you may be interested:

    Know that my heart is with you.

  5. Tracy Rosen Says:

    Your story amazes me. It floors me that the school district is putting a dress code before a child/family’s beliefs. A few of us are writing about it here, you may be interested:

    Know that my heart is with you.

  6. Corrie Bergeron Says:

    As a long-haired father of long-haired sons, I wish you good luck.

  7. MrWizard Says:

    It’s a shame that this school system doesn’t look at this situation as a “teachable moment” …. an opportunity to talk about how different people have different beliefs, different ways of dressing, speaking, different religions, …. even, yes, different lengths of hair.

    I’ve been a public school teacher for many, many years and have seen many boys of different ages with long hair. I’ve also seen many girls with very short hair. It makes absolutely no difference to the other students, and it shouldn’t. I also see many students with skin of varying colors, and students of varying sizes and shapes, students with a range of abilities and talents …. and they are all still just kids who want an education.

    I’m wondering if girls are not allowed to have short hair, or are they required to wear dresses? Are the boys required to wear neck ties and carry brief cases? Sounds crazy to me.

    Some rules are outdated and backward and this rule about boys having short hair is ludicrous and makes the superintendent and school system look backwards and ludicrous.

    I hope that the people of this town stand up and show respect for this little boy, his family and their traditions by showing that they not only allow differences but embrace such.

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