Photo: Getty
  /  09.04.2022

A South Dakota family is outraged after they say their teen son was made to feel as though he was no longer welcome at school because of his hair. Braxton Schaefer is a freshman at Bishop O’Gorman Catholic School. He has matriculated in the school system since the sixth grade, all the while wearing his hair in dreadlocks.

Yet, within a week of the new school year starting, his parents, Derrick and Toni Schaefer, say school administrators gave Braxton an ultimatum: Cut his hair or find Braxton a new school to attend. “He’s had one haircut his entire life, so cutting his hair would be significant,” said the teen’s father to Dakota News Now.

School policy states that male students must adhere to keeping their hair “above the eyes and not touching the collar.” Braxton’s hair falls just below his shoulders. His mother, Toni, said that her son’s hair was the same length last school year, and that if there was an issue, it should have been addressed before the new school year began on Aug. 18. “Why didn’t they give him the respect?” Toni asked.

“We’re sitting here talking about haircuts when I’m sending him there for an education. And we’re getting booted because we have long hair,” Toni added. Braxton is an active student, a member of the student band, and just joined the football team. “Since he’s practiced and had a game, he would not be able to transfer into another school and continue with the activity,” she explained. Derrick added that his son just wants “to go to school, he just wants to play football, he wants to be in marching band, he wants to hang out with the kids.”

Braxton and his parents agree that cutting his dreadlocks is not an option, and as a result, they are searching for a new school if talks of a resolution with Bishop O’Gorman Catholic School fall through. In a statement given to CNN, the school said it is “a common practice at the beginning of the school year to have to visit with numerous students about the length of their hair,” and that Braxton was not given an ultimatum. 

The statement continued, “The meeting with the parents ended with the understanding that further dialogue would occur in the hope of finding a resolution that would allow the student to remain at our school.” The school has also agreed to allow Braxton to finish the fall semester without the stipulation that he cut his hair.

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