14-year-old Braxton Schafer wears his hair in traditional African twists known as locs.
His locs have never posed an issue in the Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools system, which he's been a student of since sixth grade, until Wednesday (August 24) when an assistant principal said he felt Braxton's hair was too long.
“I said it was cultural; it’s been that way,” Braxton's parent Toni Schafer said as she recalled the conversation she had with the administrator at an open house.
Following the open house, Toni took a meeting on Friday (August 26) with high school principal Joan Mahoney, who emphasized the school's policy against boys having long hair.
The current dress code prohibits boys from having hair that passes their collar.
“We don’t necessarily agree with the rule,” Derrick Schafer, Braxton’s father and Toni’s husband, said. “We think it’s culturally biased.”
Braxton's parents said they suggested putting his locs in an updo so it wouldn't touch his collar, but administrators shut down the compromise, stating that students couldn't have "man buns."
After the parents said Braxton would not be cutting his hair, administrators agreed to let him finish the semester, but come next year, the 14-year-old will be transferred out of Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools.
Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools president Kyle Groos told the Argus Leader that the school dress code addresses the length of students' hair, not the style or culture.
“Can students wear dreadlocks? Yes, they can,” Groos said. “We simply want the length of the hair to be at the collar or right above the collar. Right there is what we ask for. To be clean, neat, and well-cared for.”
Chloe Goldade, public information officer for the Bishop O'Gorman Catholic Schools system, said Braxton was one of "upwards of about 20 male students asked to comply" with the dress code since August 18.
The policy was last updated in 2018 and is reviewed every five years, Groos said.
“Obviously, some people may or may not agree with (the policy),” Groos said. “But as for us as a Catholic school, we have our expectations as parents when they enroll, understanding what our handbook and what it expresses on dress code. It’s not like it hasn’t been reviewed.”
Toni said Braxton is having a hard time coping with the outcome.
“It’s incredibly stressful, and he feels kind of like an outsider anyways, because when you’re one of very few (Black students), and I think he might be the only one there with locs, he’s devastated, basically,” Toni said. “He wanted to stay because he likes his friends.”