A five-year-old student was sent home on his first day at kindergarten because school officials decided that his hair was too long. Malachi Wilson, who is of Native American descent and a member of the Navajo Nation, was treated unkindly at F. J. Young Elementary School in Texas for violating school policy that says boys cannot have hair exceeding the length of their collar or wear ponytails. However, Native Americans believe their hair is sacred and cutting it is a sign of loss.
“After we had enrolled him he was excited. He was ready to go. Every day it was the question, ‘Mom, [am I] going to school?’” said his mother, April Wilson.
On his very first day in kindergarten, Malachi was sent home after principal Sherrie Warren ordered him to shorten his hair if he wanted to study there. To make things worse, when Malachi’s mother protested his dismissal, saying he is Native American and having long hair is part of his religious beliefs, Warren demanded Wilson show proof of Malachi’s heritage.
After Wilson provided the school with formal proof of Malachi being Native American, he was allowed to rejoin with his long hair though the incident obviously left the young child feeling hurt and humiliated.
“It was a sad day. 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. Our hair is sacred to us,” said Wilson.
Wilson was considering filing a discrimination lawsuit against the school district though the school’s officials have explained that they were merely following procedure.
They cited the rule in their handbook that reads, “Certain recognized religious or spiritual beliefs may qualify for an exception from provisions of the dress code.”
Interestingly enough, the mascot at F. J. Young Elementary is a Seminole and has long hair as well.
Malachi’s story is reminiscent of another Texas kindergartener, Adriel Arocha. Arocha, too, is Native American and was sent home in 2008 for having hair that was considered too long by school administrators. Arocha, a member of Lipan Apache, was told by Needville Independent School District that he must either conceal the length of his hair or have it cut short.
Photo Credits: Glogster