Parents in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, are raising concerns about a Catholic high school’s dress code policy that would have required their Black son to cut his shoulder-length dreadlocks.
The 14-year-old will be transferring high schools at the end of the semester after his Catholic school gave him an ultimatum: Cut your dreadlocks or find a new school.
“We’re sitting here talking about haircuts when I’m sending him there for an education,” Braxton Schafer’s mother, Toni Schafer, told local news station KSFY. “And we’re getting booted because we have long hair.”
Braxton is a freshman at O’Gorman High School. Word of the school’s problem with Braxton’s dreadlocks was first brought up to Toni during a school event last month. Since then, his parents have met with administrators in the hopes of reaching an agreement.
“We were open to a lot of different compromises,” his father Derrick told the outlet. “The only one was just not cutting his hair.”
The concerned parents explained why cutting his hair would be very “significant” to him, noting he’s only cut his hair once before in his entire life.
“The important part of that cultural piece is the length of the lock, not the actual lock itself,” Toni told NBC News.
Braxton has had shoulder-length dreadlocks since enrolling in the private Catholic school system in 2018, NBC News reported. The teen has had dreadlocks since he was eight.
Without making concrete accusations, Toni said that the school’s decision, “had nothing to do with the policy.” She continued, “He’s always been an outsider.”
Instead of reaching a compromise, Braxton was given the ultimatum of either cutting his hair or finding a new school.
“People enroll in our Catholic schools, then they know what we stand for, and they know what we are representing and the structure and environment that we will create for their family,” Kyle Groos, president of Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools, told KSFY.
According to the school’s website, their hair policy states that boys must keep hair length “above the eyes and not touching the collar.”
Groos also clarified that the problem is not the style but the length, he told KELO. “Locs and dreadlocks, the style is not the issue,” the administrator said. “Length: it’s all it’s ever been.”
Following the school’s decision, the Schafers decided he would transfer high schools after the semester in order to continue football and school band until the end of the season.
“Since he’s practiced and had a game, he would not be able to transfer into another school and continue with the activity,” Toni said to KSFY, explaining their decision.
Until the end of the semester, per their agreement, the school will allow his hair to remain uncut.
“He just wants to go to school,” Derrick pleaded. “He just wants to play football. He wants to be in marching band. He wants to hang out with the kids.”