A Gladewater High School senior whose mother said the school told her the student could not walk in the graduation without changing her hair color participated in Friday’s graduation — and Superintendent Sedric Clark said he is frustrated, because the issue was resolved Monday.
Kieana Hooper said her daughter, KJ, wears her hair in braids, and part of it is dyed red. She said the school’s principal, Cathy Bedair, called her Monday and said KJ cannot participate in graduation unless she takes down her braids and changes her hair color.
Clark said the issue was never the braids, but the color, which violates the student dress code.
A recording of the phone call Monday reveals Bedair said she is “not going to force the issue.”
Hooper then said if it would be an issue, then Bedair could call her lawyer. Bedair replied, “It’s not going to be an issue.”
But the district still received a letter from California-based attorney Waukeen McCoy, Clark said.
McCoy is the attorney hired by two women in Tatum in September after they said Tatum ISD was not letting their boys continue to attend school because of their hair.
Clark said the issue was resolved Monday before an attorney got involved.
“I want to own up to our part of anything. If we make mistakes, I want to fix them,” Clark said. “All I want is the facts presented correctly. We will always do our best to own up and fix our mistakes. Mrs. Bedair adjusted our rules to fit the child.”
Gladewater ISD is fully committed to its policy of nondiscrimination, Clark said in a written statement Wednesday explaining the situation.
“It is regrettable that this matter has led to inferences, even in national media, that a discriminatory incident had taken place. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “We hope that this statement of clarification will help to put this ‘controversy’ to rest so that we can focus on the celebration of the accomplishments of our graduating class on Friday.”
Emails between attorneys — provided by Clark to the News-Journal — show McCoy confirmed with the district on Tuesday that KJ would be able to walk in graduation.
Hooper said the case still is open because of “underlining issues,” and she is waiting to make sure KJ gets her scholarships and diploma.
On Monday, Clark said the idea of KJ not getting her diploma was never in question.
Hooper said support helped her daughter walk across the stage Friday.
“We stood strong and fought and with all the support and people reaching out, she does get to walk,” she said. “They tried to go around with different resolutions, and they finally said she could walk with her hairstyle.”
For KJ, she is just excited to walk with her class as herself and get to work toward nursing school.
“I’m just very excited to walk across the stage with my hair the way it is with the color,” she said. “I’m just ready to get my diploma and leave.”