A mother and a grandmother fighting the Tatum ISD dress code that they say is racially discriminatory have hired a lawyer, and the women said the 4- and 5-year-old boys at the center of the controversy spent Thursday in in-school suspension for dress code violations.
Edwina “Randi” Woodley and Kambry Cox, both of Tatum, have signed a contract with Wuakeen McCoy, a 1983 Tatum High School graduate who is now an attorney in San Francisco.
“I hate (that) the town and the school is in the paper for this,” McCoy said in a phone interview. “My opinion is, basically, this is unlawful actions by the district, and this rule should be removed.”
McCoy has represented several civil rights cases including defending same-sex marriage equality in front of the California Supreme Court in 2008.
Woodley and Cox first took issue with the Tatum ISD dress code in August.
Cox’s son, Kellan, 5, was told he is out of dress code compliance because his hair is in dreadlocks.
Woodley’s grandson, Michael Trimble, 4, of whom she has custody, was told he is out of dress code compliance because of the length of his hair. Michael’s hair falls past his shoulders.
According to the Tatum ISD dress code posted online, a “student’s hair shall be clean and well groomed at all times and shall not obstruct vision. No extreme style or color (neon, etc. …) Only natural hair color shall be allowed. No symbols, letters or extreme designs cut in the hair shall be permitted. No ponytails, ducktails, rat-tails, male bun or puffballs shall be allowed on male students. All male hair of any type shall not extend below the top of a T-shirt collar, as it lays naturally.”
Woodley said she met with Superintendent J.P. Richardson and was told if she was so passionate about her grandson wearing his hair long that the boy could put on a dress and say he is a girl because transgender students are protected by the law.
After a special school board meeting Monday, the district denied Woodley’s claim. The meeting was called to allow parents and community members to voice their concerns about the dress code.
Cox and Woodley said Michael and Kellan spent Thursday in in-school suspension.
Woodley had sent her grandson to school with his hair in a ponytail.
“If I continue to comply, and stay in their guidelines, they’re never going to vote on this,” Woodley said.
McCoy said he has sent a letter to school board President Matt Crawford. McCoy said he hopes to come to an amicable resolution with the district.
If not, McCoy said he is prepared to take other legal action.
“We feel that the school’s rules are violation of free expression and discrimination based on sex, gender and race,” he said. “We think the policy has no particular purpose. There’s no data they’ve shown the family their hair is disruptive to the classroom at all.”
McCoy said the policy enforces gender stereotypes that only girls should have long hair and boys should have short hair.
Woodley said since the last board meeting, she and Cox went to the administration building and wanted to request a possible exemption to the dress code for religious beliefs.
As a Christian, Woodley said, in the Bible, God tells Samson not to cut his hair and that other biblical references are made to men not cutting their hair.
“Everybody is saying ‘rules are rules.’ Yes, rules are rules, but until somebody stands up and challenges those rules, women didn’t have rights to vote, minorities didn’t have rights to travel, we wasn’t able to go to the same bathrooms as everybody else,” Woodley said. “Everybody that’s saying rules are rules, well ... at some point, the rules need to be changed to be for everybody.”