Native News Online
Malachi Wilson, 5, was sent home on his first day of school and ordered to cut his hair.

Navajo Kindergartner Sent Home from School, Ordered to Cut His Hair

Simon Moya-Smith
8/28/14

On Monday, a 5-year-old Native American boy was sent home on his first day of school and ordered to cut his hair short because it allegedly violated district policy, the boy’s mother said.

The child, Malachi Wilson, an enrolled citizen of the Navajo Nation, had been looking forward to his first day of kindergarten at F.J. Young Elementary in Seminole, Texas.

“After we had enrolled him he was excited. He was ready to go. Everyday it was—the question, ‘Mom, [am I] going to school?’” his mother, April Wilson, told CBS-affiliate Channel 7.

But that notable day in a child’s life would not happen for Malachi. He was turned away by school officials and sent home.

School administrators required that April bring documentation from the Navajo Nation proving Malachi’s indigenous parentage. April immediately contacted the Navajo Nation and the document was delivered to school officials. Malachi was enrolled after the school approved of the document’s authenticity.

April also contacted the American Indian Movement.

“[The] American Indian Movement contacted the superintendent; they had told them that they were going to accept Malachi into school,” she said.

The school defended its actions by citing procedure and school policy. According to the school’s handbook, “certain recognized religious or spiritual beliefs may qualify from an exemption from provisions of the dress code. … Any exceptions to the dress code must receive prior approval by the campus administrator.”

“It’s kind of heartbreaking because how do you explain to a 5-year-old that he’s being turned away because of what he believes in? Because of his religion—because of what’s part of him,” April said. “Our hair is sacred to us.”

Social media was ablaze once the incident was made public.

“That story gets so much worse when you find out it happened in Seminole, TX, where students are called ‘Indians and Maidens,’” Twitter user Emily Lakdawalla wrote. The school’s mascot is an Indian and the school’s logo is of an Indian with feathers on his head.

This logo appears on the schools homepage.

Twitter user Aaron Yazzie, Navajo, wrote: “1st dress code rule states ‘clothing with offensive emblems’ prohibited. Shouldn’t that include Indian mascots?”

Another image from the school's website.

The Seminole Independent School district’s dress code rules, acquired by Colorlines.com, states “hairstyles or designs that are disruptive or distractive to the school environment are prohibited (i.e. Mohawks, rattails, dreadlocks, patterns or shavings in the hair, or spikes).

“I trim it. It grows back,” Malachi said.

Meanwhile, in Louisiana, a Rastafarian teenager was indefinitely suspended from a school there for having dreadlocks. The boy is now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union who argues that it’s Rastafarian mandate to keep one’s hair long and that the school, South Plaquemines School, is in violation of his religious freedom.

“We would object if the school were to tell a Christian student they could not wear a cross or if it were to permit the wearing of religious icons of one faith and prohibited those of another faith,” the ACLU said.

The Navajo Nation did not respond to ICTMN’s request for comment.

Here's the CBS 7 report:

Seminole Student Sent Home to Cut Hair, Parents Say It’s Against His Religion

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page

POST A COMMENT

Comments

CJKlepper's picture
CJKlepper
Submitted by CJKlepper on
Since when did it become sacred to have long hair, and it being part of our religious belief? A school policy is a school policy, and everyone should abide by it. Not fair to other students if the school allows one student to stand out just because of his or her cultural belief.

Ray Knitterman Whiting
Ray Knitterman ...
Submitted by Ray Knitterman ... on
This comes around year after year, and I am SO SICK of it. It is JUST hair and it is part of his family heritage and tradition, the same as the Rastafari young man in Louisiana fighting to keep his Rasta-locks. Schools need to wake up and get over their archaic ideas of what is appropriate for young men or young women in school, especially when their hair reflects their own culture and heritage. No child should be forced to relinquish his or her identity in order to attend school.

Elizabeth Noreen
Elizabeth Noreen
Submitted by Elizabeth Noreen on
IF girls can have long hair, then what is the big deal. Regardless of religion or race or creed, long hair in and of itself should not be offensive.

Jena Apgar
Jena Apgar
Submitted by Jena Apgar on
It is natural hair - who cares how long it is. There shouldn't be a school policy telling me how long my kids' hair can be anyway. Since when do we let public schools dictate hairstyle?

100IndigenousAmerican's picture
100IndigenousAm...
Submitted by 100IndigenousAm... on
Since when is long hair is sacred? That is an ignorant question equivalent to asking a Rabbii since when is the did it become sacred for your son to wear a kippah that breaks school policy. Ignorance must surely be blissful because it simplifies an individuals understanding of the world into a single digit. CJKleeper if you are Navajo, I guess you need to visit a holy man with enriching stories about long hair. If you have already disconnected to your ancestors, do research about long hair across the earth. It's called goggling sir...and on the issue of "no fair"; nothing is "fair" across earth because either we ignore it, we are apathetic, are we the few that bask in attention and comfort because we are bathing in the top ten percent of controlling the other 90% of the global population.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
I see the conservative, bureaucrats are climbing out from under their rocks. ____________________________________________________________- Are girls required to wear their hair short? What's good for the goose is good for the gander. I did note that these instances are all in the south. Seems to me if the south wants to rid itself of the intolerant attitude they could start here.

chahta ohoyo's picture
chahta ohoyo
Submitted by chahta ohoyo on
halito to begin with, I have a bone to pick with CJKlepper...you are a nut and know absolutely nothing about native americans....all I can do is have the sincerest hope you are NOT native...secondly, texas is not a 'indian friendly' state...hasn't been since the last Comanche was 'reser-vated'...oh, we're tolerated and fawned over, but we best be keepin it on our side of the fence...

CajunMother's picture
CajunMother
Submitted by CajunMother on
In response to CJ: your ignorance is showing. Native American traditions in nearly all tribes have many religious traditions centering around long hair in both men and women. Hardly an expert, I am still very aware of men not cutting hair well into adulthood as a mark of maturity and women only cutting hair as a sign of grieving when they lose a spouse, at a funeral. Your comment has encouraged me to learn even more - even knowing what I know, it has encouraged me to read on. For God's sake: Read a book. Ignorance in the age of the internet is voluntary. There are MANY religions that have hair traditions as part of their rituals!

chahta ohoyo's picture
chahta ohoyo
Submitted by chahta ohoyo on
etc......muslim women wear their traditional head scarf on the job in this country....Sikh men wear their turban in the u s military...'christians' wear their crosses....jewish men wear the yarmaluke....I would just love to know why EVERY OTHER race of human gets to wear whatever they want, whenever they please, wherever they please, and yet, still, upright/upright whitey keeps dictating, specifically, we INDIGINEES can wear not one bead, feather or braid to identify ourselves in 'polite company' anywhere in OUR country without hearing a outcry of protest....

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
CJKlepper - were you always this ignorant or do you just practice a lot?

Osage's picture
Osage
Submitted by Osage on
cjklepper what is it you know of tradition and the importance of such? who ARE you? perhaps the reason you made such a statement is because you cut your hair? Public Schools have no business DICTATING how students wear their hair. Unless of course the kid behind you can't see past it! Ha!

choctawgirl's picture
choctawgirl
Submitted by choctawgirl on
CJ get an education please. You should have the freedom to wear your hair however you want regardless of your cultural beliefs. Natives have been here for thousands of years longer than whites. We had freedom before whites showed up and knew what real freedom was. Quit assimilating to the whites because that's exactly what they want you to do.Whites are extremely insecure because of the lack of pigment in their skin and i'm not going to cater to the white man's burdens.

Flower's picture
Flower
Submitted by Flower on
How awful they use our people as mascots and treat him like this! They should be ashamed. I doubt their policy requires a tribal CIB and since when does a tribal enrollment number constitute as the documentation source to confirm a family or child's native religious beliefs or customs. Those school administrators are the ones who need to be educated. Prayers for the family.

Bob Prue
Bob Prue
Submitted by Bob Prue on
it is no one's opinion whether or not this young person's hair is sacred except him and his family. Also, it is a First Amendment free speech right being trampled on. Also, it is a gender equality issue. Also, this is a national origin issue. The important question is: What is such an important governmental interest (I assume they get state and or federal funding) that this school has which makes the cutting of hair, boys or girls so important?

Stephanie Clanahan
Stephanie Clanahan
Submitted by Stephanie Clanahan on
This is for CJKlepper. High school students around the country started their first week of school this year studying the Dawes Act, an atrocious government policy of assimilation of Native Americans in the late 1800s. in which Native American children were forced to attend boarding schools so they could be taught how bad their culture was. Part of the programs was that they had to cut their hair, which they found particularly degrading as hair considered sacred to their religious beliefs. This part of their culture is well-known and well-documented. My students could teach you a thing or two. Stop showing your ignorance and show some tolerance for other beliefs!!!!!!!!!!!

tmsyr11's picture
tmsyr11
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
Religion or Tradition? Sacred or a Practice? Traditional or modern-day Progressive? I am sorry for the child, but he will be facing and dealing with far more greater set-backs if not from his own Indian people, Navajo. If the mother or parents had any sensibilities, tie the hair in a bun, tsiiyéél, as Navajo calls it. There are countless students and professionals, who represented Navajo proudly with a tsiiyéél. This way, the parents and child can still have the hair and still abide by school policy! Too often, when RACE is highlighted in an article, too many jump on bandwagon and become emotional. But again, if a WHITE_MAN organization is involved, then it becomes a means for racial agitation and race baiting_thanks in large part to the writer!

ppmickey's picture
ppmickey
Submitted by ppmickey on
CJKlepper, open a book about Native American Indians and start reading. School policies are sometimes waved in certain circumstances all across America. I actually got a school policy for girls changed in about 1968 or 1969, that for girls having to walk to school on days when the temperature was 15 degrees F. or under, that we could wear tasteful, fashionable slacks to school. Before that point, we froze all the way to school and back home, and in one of the rooms where the heat never worked during the winter. We aren't "cookie cutter" people. We have free speech and human rights in our country. Some rules are just not made for EVERYBODY to abide by.

Suretta Williams
Suretta Williams
Submitted by Suretta Williams on
First off, Native Americans are not a religious group, they were here FIRST ... this is their land. I was under the impression that there were laws that protected their rights in various aspects of several (but not all) aspects of social culture, but apparently I was sadly mistaken. Secondly, this IS sacred to them. Long hair is sacred to several religious organizations. Many Christian fundamentalists do not allow their women to cut their hair. Many Jewish and Christian cultures do not allow their men to cut their hair. Judaism requires men to cover their head; other cultures require other things. While I do not believe people must be *forced* to wear a cross, or a yamulke, or a Star of David, I certainly don't believe they should be forced to remove them. Look at all the gang members who carve Swastikas into their bodies. If they are wearing clothes, no one even knows it. Religious jewelry can be worn under clothing; hair, on the other hand, in many cultures, is sacred. Schools should embrace diversity. This country belongs to Native Americans. Give them back their culture.

Suretta Williams
Suretta Williams
Submitted by Suretta Williams on
First off, Native Americans are not a religious group, they were here FIRST ... this is their land. I was under the impression that there were laws that protected their rights in various aspects of several (but not all) aspects of social culture, but apparently I was sadly mistaken. Secondly, this IS sacred to them. Long hair is sacred to several religious organizations. Many Christian fundamentalists do not allow their women to cut their hair. Many Jewish and Christian cultures do not allow their men to cut their hair. Judaism requires men to cover their head; other cultures require other things. While I do not believe people must be *forced* to wear a cross, or a yamulke, or a Star of David, I certainly don't believe they should be forced to remove them. Look at all the gang members who carve Swastikas into their bodies. If they are wearing clothes, no one even knows it. Religious jewelry can be worn under clothing; hair, on the other hand, in many cultures, is sacred. Schools should embrace diversity. This country belongs to Native Americans. Give them back their culture.

Suretta Williams
Suretta Williams
Submitted by Suretta Williams on
First off, Native Americans are not a religious group, they were here FIRST ... this is their land. I was under the impression that there were laws that protected their rights in various aspects of several (but not all) aspects of social culture, but apparently I was sadly mistaken. Secondly, this IS sacred to them. Long hair is sacred to several religious organizations. Many Christian fundamentalists do not allow their women to cut their hair. Many Jewish and Christian cultures do not allow their men to cut their hair. Judaism requires men to cover their head; other cultures require other things. While I do not believe people must be *forced* to wear a cross, or a yamulke, or a Star of David, I certainly don't believe they should be forced to remove them. Look at all the gang members who carve Swastikas into their bodies. If they are wearing clothes, no one even knows it. Religious jewelry can be worn under clothing; hair, on the other hand, in many cultures, is sacred. Schools should embrace diversity. This country belongs to Native Americans. Give them back their culture.

Kauai_Rena's picture
Kauai_Rena
Submitted by Kauai_Rena on
Oh no.....Did I read this correctly? No school in the USA is going to send any indigenous child home for having long hair. Those days are long gone. If I have to fly from Kauai to support the child, I will. This is disgusting, disgraceful, shameful, illegal. I hope the teacher and administration and whoever supported this abuse against a child has apologized. Yes....it is abuse to penalize such a young child for having long hair and trying to force that child to cut his hair. I try to stay neutral and positive in life but I felt physically sick after reading this story. Many people (including my family) went through much turmoil through government and American society prejudice, racism and forced education. Trying to force people to become "civilized Americans". Forced cutting of the hair is a symbol of that time. The educators need some cultural and humanitarian training...

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
To tmsyr11: Why should Natives have to adopt the hairstyles of tribes outside their own to satisfy school administrators? Isn't this still a free country? Aren't we still allowed to pursue happiness? Isn't there something in the Pledge of Allegiance about, "liberty and justice for ALL?" __________________________________________________________ What if the shoe were on the other foot? How would White people like NDNs to tell them how they can wear their hair? What if NDNs sent the children of White people away to boarding schools to make them forget Jesus and make them carbon copies of us? What if NDNs took the land your great-grandparents and their great-grandparents before them had lived on and relegated them to living on land incapable of supporting much? Now, on TOP of all that history, imagine us telling you how you can wear your hair! All you need is a little empathy to see why your rules suck!
22