On November 17, 2023, the ACLU of Kansas and the ACLU sent a letter to the Girard School District (USD 248) on behalf of a Native American child who was forced to cut his hair to remain in school at R.V. Haderlein Elementary.
The school’s “Boy's Hair Length” policy mandates that boys, but not girls, wear their hair short. Even after the child’s mother explained that our client is a member of the Wyandotte Nation and wears his hair long in accordance with his Native American faith and culture, school officials refused to accommodate the practice and stated that he would be sent home in the future if he did not cut his hair. As explained our letter details, the school’s policy and refusal to accommodate our client’s religious and cultural practice violates the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, the U.S. Constitution, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The present-day harms of school policies that restrict Native American boys from wearing long hair must be understood in the historical context of multifaceted efforts to separate Native American children from their families and tribes and to deny them their rights of cultural and religious expression. Haderlein's policy impacts Native American students disproportionately and perpetuates a legacy of cultural, psychological, and spiritual trauma and discrimination.
Additionally, the school's discriminatory sex-based hair policy sends a damaging message to boys that they cannot be feminine in any way, and this message harms all students by promoting rigid views of gender norms and roles.
Our letter demands that school officials immediately grant an accommodation allowing our client to wear his hair long in accordance with his religious and cultural beliefs and advises the school to rescind its facially unlawful and discriminatory policy.