Jessica Oates' son has long hair, and she doesn't care for the school policy stopping her 4-year-old from attending class. The mom is outraged that her son, Jabez Oates, is not allowed at pre-school in Mont Belvieu, Texas, for no other reason but his hair.
"He's never had a haircut. It's just kinda part of his identity," Oates tells WDSU News. "I don't believe that short hair should be required to get an education."
The mom says her son loves his hair and has even said he wished it would grow faster.
At registration, the mom learned that school policy states boys' hair must be above the eyes, ears and neck, and for his hair to remain long, she would need a letter citing religious or cultural reasons. But Oates says the district recanted its statement and told her not to come back until her son's hair met school guidelines.
Oates has approached several people within the school and district's administration. She recorded her conversation with the assistant superintendent on Facebook Live, noting in the comments that she made them well aware she was recording.
In the video, she cites the dress code, which includes hair not allowed to be in ponytails, tails or with inappropriate hair accessories. To fix this, the mom tied Jabez' hair into a bun with a black hair tie, with no hair passing his eyes, ears and neck. But it was still not good enough for the school.
"I just want my child to get an education. I'm not understanding why long hair would exclude my child from education in this school district," the mom says to the unnamed woman in the video.
The official likens the school's policy to former mayor Rudy Giuliani's crackdown of graffiti in New York City. "It's perception. It's a brand. And that's just important to our school board, this community," she says.
"So, a little boy with long hair is ... dirty? I don't get it. I'm not understanding what's wrong about my son having long hair," Oates questions, calling the rule sexist and archaic. "I can't afford to homeschool and I'm not moving, so for the next 12 years of his life, is he just not going to get education?"
Some viewers criticized Oates for showing her son that he doesn't have to follow rules and suggested he would be bullied by kids at school if he kept his hair long.
The district itself sent ABC a statement: "Our local elected Board has established policy based on community expectations, and Barbers Hill administration will continue to implement the said policy."
This is not the first case of parents challenging schools for their hair policies.
In 2009, school officials in Dallas, Texas, sent then 4-year-old Taylor Pugh to in-school suspension and separated him from his pre-kindergarten class because of his long locks. School officials said the dress codes served to limit distractions in the classroom. The district eventually allowed Taylor's hair to be styled in a double French braid and pinned up at the base of his neck.
As for Jabez, his mom tells Mom.me he is still not allowed into school as of today. She will keep fighting the policy, as boys shouldn't have to look a certain way to be boys. (These five moms of long-haired boys can attest to that.)