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A Black teen from South Dakota was forced to leave his high school after the school ordered him to cut his locs, which they say are too long and go against the school district’s policy.
Braxton Schaefer, 14, is a Bishop O’Gorman Catholic School freshman and has always had locs. His adoptive parents, who are white, say the school issued the teen an ultimatum–cut his shoulder-length locs or leave the school.
“Strength, pride and part of him, a piece of him that we won’t understand, that most people in South Dakota don’t understand,” Braxton’s mom Toni Schafer said.
According to the school’s student handbook, “Males must keep hair length above the eyes and not touching the collar. Sideburns must not extend below the ear lobe. Males are not allowed to have their hair in a ponytail or bun.” The handbook adds that the hair “must be neat and clean in appearance and must not be a distraction to others.”
His parents say that Braxton has only ever known locs and they do not want him to be forced to cutting them if it is not his choice.
“Ultimately we wanted it to be his decision,” Braxton’s dad Derrick Schafer said per KCAU. “Your choices are to cut your hair if you want to stay, or if you don’t want to cut your hair, we’re going to have to go, and he said he loves the school, he loves the kids, but he doesn’t want to cut his hair.”
Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools President Kyle Groos insists that his issue is not that Braxton has locs but their length.
“From our perspective and why people invest in our Catholic education, and what they’re seeking for is the structure and discipline that that provides,” Groos said. “It also then allows us to let our students focus on their faith, their service to others, their academics, and their own friendships.”
Braxton’s parents are now looking for an alternative school to send their son.