Texas Students Sue School District Over Policy Prohibiting Boys From Having Long Hair

Seven students in Magnolia, Texas, are suing their school district for banning boys from having long hair.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas (ACLU) on Thursday filed the lawsuit against the Magnolia Independent School District on behalf of the students, whose ages range from 7 to 17.

The suit alleged that the school district policy is unfairly applied because some boys are allowed to wear long hair while others are punished for it. The students suing the district said that the penalty imposed for violating the policy has caused them "immense and irreparable harm." The policy does not apply to girls.

"Magnolia grooming policy is based on impermissible gender stereotypes—namely, that short hair is more 'masculine,' more professional, and more conducive to traditionally male-dominated occupations and activities," the ACLU of Texas said in its lawsuit.

Boys' hair must be "no longer than the bottom of a dress shirt collar, bottom of the ear, and out of the eyes," according to the school district's handbook.

Newsweek contacted the district and the ACLU of Texas for comment but did not hear back before publication.

"We have warned the district repeatedly that its gender-based hair policy violates the Constitution, but the district continues to derail students' lives and deny their right to a public education free from discrimination," Brian Klosterboer, an ACLU of Texas staff attorney, said Thursday in a statement.

The lawsuit comes after one of the seven students, who is identified in court documents as 9-year-old A.C., was given an in-school suspension for a month for not getting a haircut. According to the lawsuit, he was banned from attending art, music and physical education classes, as well as recess and lunch breaks.

All seven students accused the district of "vigorously" penalizing them for not conforming to the school district's policy, according to the suit. The punishment also included sending violators of the rule to an alternative disciplinary school that is "typically reserved for students who have violated state or federal law or committed serious violations of school policies.

Part of A.C.'s punishment was sending him to the alternative school. But because the school district didn't transport him there, the fourth-grader had to be homeschooled, according to the lawsuit.

Texas School District sued for grooming Policy
The Magnolia, Texas school district is being sued for gender discrimination over its policy on boys' hair length. Above, an empty classroom at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 that a teacher has prepared for the start of the school year on September 2 in New York City. Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

In August, the school district defended its policy, saying, "Magnolia ISD has used a dress code that sets different standards for boys and girls for many years," according to KPRC.

"This has been approved by the Texas courts and continues to be used by roughly half the districts in the state of Texas," the district added.

"The differentiated dress and grooming standards do not violate Title IX and are included in the student handbook each year. Magnolia ISD's approach to the dress code reflects the values of our community at large," the district said.

Another student mentioned in the lawsuit, identified as 11-year-old T.M., is nonbinary but was assigned male at birth and is subject to the school district's policy.

The lawsuit noted that for T.M. long hair is a "crucial component" for expressing gender identity.

T.M.'s mother, Danielle Miller, told The Washington Post that the school district "keeps inflicting harm on our kids."

"No student should be forced to conform to gender stereotypes or have their education upended because of that student's gender," she said. "We will not be ignored nor go away quietly while our children are disciplined simply because of their gender."

KPRC said parents and students have been feuding with the school district over the policy since August, when the handbook including the dress code and grooming policy was approved during a board meeting before the school year started.