We’ve covered plenty of incidents of dress codes that unfairly target — and sexualize — girls. But here’s a new and just as disappointing twist: a dress code blatantly reinforcing a tired old gender stereotype and stigmatizing the hair of a child of color.
Four-year-old Michael Trimble hails from Tatum, Texas, and like most kids, was pretty excited to meet his teachers for the new school year. His grandma, Randi Woodley — who’s had custody of him since he was four months old — took extra special care styling his hair.
“He was dressed up cute and had two long ponytails,” Woodley told TODAY. “Usually he just wears one but this was a special occasion, so I took more time on his hair.”
If you’re fuming, you’re not alone. Twitter’s not happy either:
We were also shocked to hear of this archaic and frankly ridiculous “code” — especially since Woodley had three sons of her own in the district prior to her grandson Michael, and never once bumped up against any sort of stipulation about length of hair.
Woodley immediately requested the audience of superintendent Dr. J.P Richardson. She told Richardson, “He’s a little boy. When he’s playing at recess, what if one of those bobby pins gets moved around and hurts him?”
But the superintendent reiterated the “rule.”
Woodley pressed harder. “At that point, I asked him about transgender students and what happens with the males who wear long wigs. He then told me that the transgender students are protected by law, but that Tatum ISD has their own set of rules for other students,” she said.
That’s when their conversation went completely off the rails. To make a point, Woodley asked why transgender students and female students had the option to wear hair long, but not Michael.
Woodley said the answer shocked her: “The superintendent then told me if I was so passionate about it, that I could put Michael in a dress and send him to school with long hair. But I would have to let him know that when he’s asked if he’s a boy, he has to say he’s a girl,” she said. (Note: The district says this incident did not happen.)
Woodley has decided to fight the school’s dress code policy, which reads: “No ponytails, ducktails, rat-tails, male buns, or puffballs are allowed on male students. ALL male hair of any type SHALL NOT extend below the top of a T-shirt collar.” And she’s getting support online. A Philadelphia woman named Rachel Raye was moved by Woodley’s story on Facebook and created a petition for Michael — so far, it’s been signed more than 9,000 times (see above if you’d like to sign too).
Woodley’s also been attending school board meetings to speak out against this outdated hair policy for boys. We hope she won’t stop until the policy is banned for good. The last thing this world needs is one more ancient dress code policy and the shaming that goes with it.