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Kindergarten Hair Fight

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A Texas school board will soon decide if a boy's long hair should keep him from attending school.

The Needville Independent School District said five-year-old Adriel Arocha's long locks violate school rules.

Adriel's parents say long hair is a sacred tradition in their Native American culture.

Kenny Arocha, Adriel's father, said long hair is a religious symbol for the Apache tribe that should only be cut at the time of a life-changing event.

"It's part of who we are. It's part of what we believe in. It's part of what makes us Native American," he said. "To strip our hair would be to strip our spirit, which is far beyond stripping any religion."

Adriel said he knows that his long hair, which is often kept in braids, is about more than style.

"It tells me how long I've been here," he said.

But Needville ISD officials said a dress code guideline would require Adriel to cut his hair
before he can enroll in kindergarten.

Needville superintendent Curtis Rhodes decided in June that the district would not make an exception in the case.

Kenny Arocha plans to appeal the ruling before the school board.

"You have policies and procedures. Every district has them, various variations, and to
make exceptions, you have to be provided evidence of something, and to this point, I don't feel I've been provided evidence to make an exception," Rhodes said.

Arocha said he provided a DNA test to prove that he is Native American, and added there is not much else he can do to plead his case.

"They want it in text somewhere, and unfortunately, there is none. All of our traditions were passed down orally, and it's really hard to provide them with something that doesn't exist," Arocha said.

The Arocha family lives in Stafford, but their home in Needville should be completed by next week.

They said they hope their son will be able to enter school with his hair and his beliefs in tact.

"We chose to make that our community and I just honestly hoped for more. I hoped for more tolerance, more understanding," Kenny Arocha said.

"If we have information provided to us that requires an exception be made, we're going to make that exception," Rhodes said.

School officials said that this is the first time anyone has challenged the dress code on the basis of religion.

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