2009 Press Releases

12.3.2009: ACLU To Argue Friday For Kindergartener's Right To Religious Expression: Texas School District Suspended American Indian Student For Having Long Hair

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will hear arguments Friday, December 4, in an appeal of a federal judge's ruling that the Needville (TX) Independent School District (NISD) violated the U.S. Constitution and Texas state law by punishing an American Indian Kindergarten student for wearing his long hair in braids as an expression of his heritage and religious faith.

U.S. District Court Judge Keith P. Ellison in January granted a request by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Texas that the boy, known in court proceedings by his initials, A.A., be allowed to wear his hair at school in two long braids in observance of his religious heritage. School officials, who had initially placed the student in in-school suspension for violating the school district's dress code requiring boys to have short hair, appealed the ruling.

Last year, the ACLU of Louisiana successfully secured the right of kindergarten student Curtis Harjo of Slidell to wear his hair in a long braid in accordance with his family's Native American traditions. Curtis was told that he would have to cut his hair in order to attend his Slidell elementary school, but after appeals to the school's principal and the Superintendent of Schools, he was permitted to wear a single braid down his back.

The ACLU and ACLU of Texas sued the NISD in October 2008 after school officials refused to exempt the boy from its dress code requirements and instead mandated that he stuff his long hair down the back of his shirt while at school - a requirement that would cause A.A. shame, embarrassment and physical discomfort.

WHAT: ACLU Arguments defending a Houston federal judge's ruling that stopped a Texas school district from punishing a five-year old student for wearing his long hair in braids as an expression of his American Indian heritage and beliefs.

WHO: ACLU of Texas Staff Attorney Fleming Terrell will argue before a judicial panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

WHEN: Tomorrow, December 4, 2009 at 9 a.m. CT

WHERE:  U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

En Banc Courtroom
600 Camp Street
New Orleans, LA 70130