Texas school’s haircut demand ‘traumatises’ Catholic schoolboys

Texas school’s haircut demand ‘traumatises’ Catholic schoolboys July 23, 2019

CESAR and Diego Gonzales sport long braids because of a promise their Roman Catholic family made to their God. 

Image via Becket

But the Mathis Independent School Board in Texas prohibits boys from participating in extracurricular activities if their hair is longer than collar-length, and now faces a lawsuit if they refuse to accommodate the religious beliefs  of the Gonzales family.

The school board has been warned by the legal group Becket that “the law is clear” and it will lose in court if it doesn’t reverse its decision to ban two brothers from activities such as football because of the length of their hair.

Becket spokesman Montse Alvarado said  the Texas Association of School Boards requires districts to:

Accommodate requests for exceptions based on a student or parent’s sincerely held religious belief.A religious promise to keep a small strand of uncut hair shouldn’t ban school children from catching touchdowns or participating in student council meetings.

The school board should give these boys a chance to be active in the sports and clubs they love – not only because the school would lose miserably in court, but because it is the right thing to do.

Becket explained that when Cesar was an infant, he contracted a serious illness, and his parents, Pedro and Belen Gonzales, made a promise to God never to cut a small strand of their son’s hair if he was healed.

The family has kept this deeply personal religious promise ever since, and their sons have adopted the religious promise as their own.

Although the school’s dress code forbids male students from having hair past the collar, the school district granted an exemption to the boys from kindergarten through sixth grade, and they participated in school activities with no problem.

Luke Goodrich, a Becket senior counsel, said in a letter to the district that:

The law is clear, and the school district will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if it does not respect these students’ religious liberty. Religious liberty is a fundamental human right, and the school district should set an example for its students of respecting human dignity.

In this day and age, a school should be warm and welcoming toward students of diverse beliefs. But instead these boys have been needlessly traumatized and targeted by the very teachers who should protect them from this kind of bullying.

Becket said it is prepared to intervene in the case and “defend Cesar and Diego’s right to learn and play alongside their classmates” if necessary.

The organisation warned the district:

We have won multiple cases in Texas and the Fifth Circuit under the laws at issue in your case, and we are undefeated in the U.S. Supreme Court. … We strongly urge you to settle this case.

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  • Mike Panic

    I am Gay because I made a pact with god. Nobody is allowed to mess with me because god sez so

  • LimeGecko

    The school district is going to lose this. Just a couple of years ago, our local school district mysteriously eliminated the gender specific dress code and grooming rules. It’s now, hair is not distracting or a health risk, and students (no gender mention) will wear shorts, skirts, capris, slacks or skirts in navy or khaki, along with a polo shirt that’s white or the school’s assigned color.

    I don’t think they dropped the gender rules on a whim.

  • Raging Bee

    The “pact with God” is just plain silly, but if the school can’t show a rational basis for its rule about haircuts, then the rule needs to be dropped.

  • WallofSleep

    Heh, that ‘religious freedom’ sword cuts both ways, mudderfuggers.


  • Erp

    I could possible see requiring long hair not be left loose for certain activities (e.g., cooking or contact sports) but that can be solved easily by tying up the hair/using a hair net. Banning boys with long hair from all extra-curriculum makes no sense.

  • mordred

    I wonder if girls with long hair are also excluded from these activities…

  • Kit Hadley-Day

    I find this one tricky, on the one hand the hair length restriction seems a bit bloody silly, hair nets are a thing and there are plenty of professional sports people who sport mad hair, so that rule should probably be removed. On the other hand i am deeply against religious exceptions to rules / laws as i don’t think that ‘my imaginary friend said so’ is a valid reason to be treated different.

    Basically, these boys should be able to wear their hair how they like, short of any rational health and safety concerns on a per activity basis.

    Getting the right result by a wrong method just more deeply ingrains religious privilege, rather than getting the right result for the right reason would encourage inclusivity and diversity

  • Glandu

    I had a year during my studies where we practiced machining. Long hair were forbidden for safety reasons…so people with long hair(including a guy) used a kind of net to keep their hair tight, in a non-dangerous fashion.

    That’s what intelligent people do : they look for solutions satisfying both parties. they don’t try to “win”. Winning at all costs is for losers.

  • Matt G

    They might lose miserably in court, and they might lose miserably ON the court if these kids are good athletes….

  • zenlike

    Agreed. If there is a very good secular reason for the restriction, no religious exception should be made. If there isn’t a very good reason, the restriction should just be dropped. I expect it is the latter, most of these restrictions are rooted in some strict gender roles and expectations, and have no place in the modern world.

  • CoastalMaineBird

    I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count.

  • CoastalMaineBird

    It’s the PARENTS who made the “pact with god”.
    I wonder what the kids think about wearing their hair that way?

    Oh, right. It’s Catholic. What the kids think doesn’t matter.
    Never mind.

  • ClanSutherland

    Why have a rule against hair below the collar for boys?
    Obviously, that doesn’t apply to girls which makes it a sexist policy.
    So now the District spends money on hair issues, not education.
    New heights of stupid.

  • WallofSleep

    The public school district in my area had to make some changes to their outdated, gender specific dress code because some ‘outsider troublemakers’ (Read: ACLU) took them to court. Boy, it sure was funny listening to the local wingnuts cry about it on talk radio.

  • LimeGecko

    Like it does them any harm if a gender non conforming ten year old wears a skirt or a buzz cut…

  • WallofSleep

    I’d bet dollars to donuts they still wouldn’t allow a boy to wear a skirt, or girls to wear shorts they deem “too short”, but IIRC they managed to get them to drop their rules about hair length for boys and acceptable hair styles/dye jobs for all.

    This is a very conservative, xtian part of CA.

  • LimeGecko

    No doubt they want to pay yet more in legal fees…

  • WallofSleep

    I think that would require a student with enough courage to file another complaint, and parents that would back him/her on it. That can be a difficult combination to come by ’round these parts.