A Black teen in Texas is being homeschooled because of his school district's dress code policy. The school, located 50 miles outside of Houston, prohibits "braids and cornrows," and for 17-year-old Dyree Williams, the policy goes against who he is.
"Once you cut that hair off, you cut off your line to your ancestors, you cut off your lineage, you cut off everything," Williams' mother, Desiree Bullock, told CNN. "And it's just not an option ... We don't consider them dreadlocks because we don't dread them, we love them."
Williams has been wearing his hair in locs, twists, and braids his entire life and recently relocated to East Bernard, Texas from Cincinnati, Ohio.
CNN obtained the Texas school district's student handbook –– which the outlet reported was taken off the website. The handbook states that "boy's hair must not extend below the eyebrows, below the tops of ears or below a conventional standup shirt collar, and must not be more than one-inch difference in the length of the hair on the side to the length of the hair on top."
The handbook goes on to prohibit "tall hairstyles, side-swept bang styles, and long hair dangling over shaved sides or shaved the back of the head," including "mullets and mullets in the making," and all other "extremes in hairstyles."
Bullock hoped that officials at East Bernard High School would allow some exemption to the rules after meeting Dyree, but the school only referred the teen's mother back to the handbook.
Bullock went on to file a religious exemption with the district superintendent but was denied. After asking for additional details about how the district came up with the policy, Bullock was still turned down for answers.
"East Bernard ISD's hair policy is deeply discriminatory and needs to be changed," Brian Klosterboer, an attorney for the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement to CNN. "The policy contains explicit gender discrimination that recent court decisions have found to be unconstitutional and violate Title IX, and it also explicitly bans 'braided hair or twisted rows/strands' which is a proxy for race discrimination and disproportionately harms Black students in the district."
Williams would be entering his junior year of high school –– a critical year for most high school students. His mom says the teen is missing out on track and the opportunity to get noticed by colleges as a result of the policy.
"I feel really sick to my stomach," Bullock said. "I feel like (the district's hair policy) needs to change, I feel like it's horrible and I feel like it's only toward African American children or people."
According to the Texas Education Agency, the East Bernard district is made up of only 6.1% Black students.
Last month, the US House of Reps passed the CROWN Act to ban policies that promote hair discrimination in places of work and school. The federal legislation is currently in the Senate where Sen. Cory Booker has sponsored the chamber's version. Multiple states and localities have already their own versions.