A Catholic school system based in South Dakota has defended its recently announced school dress code policy requiring male students to have short hair or dreadlocks, which has garnered controversy.
Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools, a Sioux Falls-based network of eight private schools, garnered headlines when a 14-year-old African American freshman was reportedly told he could not attend high school because his dreadlocks are considered too long.
The policy, which garnered headlines in recent days, requires male students to “keep hair length above the eyes and not touching the collar.”
“We don’t necessarily agree with the rule,” Derrick Schafer, the student's father, said to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader earlier this week. “We think it’s culturally biased.”
“He’s been in the system for three years with the same length hair. We’re confused on why it’s become an issue now. Why? They’ve had plenty of chances to discuss it with us.”
In a statement emailed to The Christian Post on Wednesday morning, Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools Administration defended the hair length policy, adding that it still “allows for culturally appropriate hairstyles such as dreadlocks.”
“Multiple students at our school have dreadlocks that meet the dress code policy,” the statement added. “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.”
The administration denied claims that staff had given the student an ultimatum to either cut his hair or be expelled, but rather they said that his parents agreed to “further dialogue” on the issue, with the “hope of finding a resolution that would allow the student to remain at our school.”
“Prior to being able to engage in further dialogue, the parents of the student took to social media to present their version of events,” the statement added. “O’Gorman High School administrators would welcome further dialogue with the parents regarding a solution that would allow the student to stay at our school.”
In 2018, a separate Catholic school garnered outrage when it banned hair extensions, which some viewed as wrongfully singling out African American girls. The policy resulted in at least one student being punished.
Sixth-grader Faith Fennidy of Christ the King Middle School of New Orleans, Louisiana, was sent home for wearing extensions. Her brother subsequently posted a video on social media about the incident.
“This is an issue we tried to resolve with the school, but they won't compromise at all. My sister Faith and many little black girls wear extensions,” her brother said back in 2018. "She's been attending this school for two years and wearing extensions. Over the summer the school has sneakily added in a policy, that no extensions, clip-ins or weaves are allowed.”
For its part, the Archdiocese of New Orleans Schools said the policy had been "communicated to all parents during the summer and again before the first day of school” and that “school leadership worked with families as needed to ensure compliance.”