Texas parents are filing a lawsuit against staffers at a Texas junior high school for coloring their son’s fade haircut with a jet-black Sharpie as a punishment for violating the school dress code.
According to the suit, their son, identified as 13-year-old J.T., was in seventh grade at Pearland Independent School District when, on April 16, he got a “fade haircut with a design line,” which described as a “common African American haircut with innocuous line design,” the lawsuit said.
The next morning, J.T. was told to go to the discipline office by Berry Miller Junior High School Principal Tony Barcelona because he was “out of dress code.” Discipline clerk Helen Day gave J.T. a choice of in-school suspension, which would make him miss classes and could affect his position on the track team, or have the line design on his scalp colored in, according to NBC News.
And so, “under great duress,” he chose to have his head colored in. Neither the principal nor the discipline clerk contacted the boy’s parents before taking action, the suit said.
Day was the first person to color in J.T.’s scalp with the jet-black marker, then the teacher, Jeanette Peterson, stopped by the office and finished the job. The threesome laughed hard at the scalp.
“The jet-black markings did not cover the haircut design line but made the design more prominent and such was obvious to those present at the very beginning of the scalp blackening process,” the suit said.
The ink didn’t come off J.T.’s head for days, and he was teased by other students.
Upon learning of the incident, J.T.’s parents were frustrated.
Juelz father, Dante Trice, said the school could have put him at medical risk by putting chemicals on open pores.
“It was wide open because he had just got his haircut the day before, so it was wide open,” said Dante Trice told ABC’s Houston station KTRK. “I’m totally disappointed. Totally disappointed.”
Even though the school said it was the dress code hairstyle policy that was violated, J.T.’s parents said that isn’t enough and accused the school of racial discrimination, owing to a common understanding that “among scholars and the general public that depicting African Americans with jet black skin is a negative racial stereotype,” the lawsuit said.
Pearland Independent School District said in a statement that they remain silent at the present, as the district “has yet to receive notification of the lawsuit” outside of media reports.
Learning from the incident, Pearland Independent School District also made changes and updated the student dress code for the 2019-20 school year on May 22 to “identify and remove any perceived racial, cultural, and religious insensitivities,” according to the district. Restrictions on fade haircuts were removed.
About J.T., the boy suffered from anxiety and depression, according to the suit, which is seeking monetary damages.