In August 2017 a mother was furious when her 4-year-old son’s school year was abruptly cut short when he was sent home on the second day. Her son had just started pre-K when he was told he had to go home.
The reason why enraged his mother even further.
Center Of Attention
The boy in the middle of this storm is young Jabez Oates. Like most children his age, Jabez was excited to start going to school. His mother, 25-year-old Jessica Oates, was equally excited and made sure he had everything he needed for class.
They had no way to prepare for what happened next.
Jessica made sure that Jabez had everything he needed. She bought him new clothes and even a new backpack. They were relatively new to the area so they didn’t know many people and Jessica felt this would be a great way for Jabez to make some friends.
“I got him so excited to go to school for his first day,” Jessica said to the website in August 2017. “I thought I had all my ducks in a row.” Two days later, however, things changed and Jessica realized that she hadn’t considered everything after all.
This unexpected thing would be what caused all the trouble.
According to the school, Jabez’s appearance caused a problem and was against the school dress code. Jabez was only allowed to attend the school for a few days before he was sent home and Jessica was told that he wouldn’t be allowed back.
Not unless a serious change was made by the Oates family.
The entire situation was apparently due to young Jabez’s hair. That is because the 4-year-old’s hair hadn’t been cut since he was born. The school, ironically called Barbers Hill Independent School District, didn’t accept that.
The boy’s hair hadn’t been cut for cultural reasons.
“My family is American Indian,” Jessica explained in a New York Post interview. “We are Cocopah Indian and that was the documentation that I was going to provide for the reason for my son’s long hair.”
According to the school, however, this documentation wasn’t good enough.
Making An Effort
Jessica tried to comply by putting young Jabez’s hair up into a bun instead but the school still refused to accept this. The school staff still had a problem with the young boy’s hair. Jessica was stunned to discover that the hair tie she used was now cited as a problem.
According to them, it was an “inappropriate hair accessory.”
“Apparently, the school board is a stickler for rules and can’t think of any religions or cultures that would require long hair,” Jessica remarked in a New York Post interview. That was when it became clear that the school was unwilling to compromise.
Jessica wasn’t about to leave it at that, however.
For the Oates family, having long hair is culturally a “signal of strength,” according to Jessica. And besides, she didn’t want to chop off all of her son’s hair, especially when he was so fond of it.
“He doesn’t want to cut his hair. It’s just a part of who he is,” she explained to The Huffington Post.
But the repercussions of the school board’s decision appear to be more serious than Jessica initially realized. Indeed, it seems as though being banned from school has affected Jabez negatively. “At first, I didn’t believe it impacted him as much as it did. He’s a smart, very observant little boy.
Since Monday, he has been very angry,” his mom told Today in August 2017.
And Jessica was sure that it was all to do with being sent home from school because of his long hair. Ever since it happened, in fact, Jabez has been “confused as to why he can’t go to school anymore,” as his mom told the New York Post.
As a result, Jessica decided to do something about it. Rather than sitting back and accepting the status quo, she started an online petition on Change.org in August 2017. The main intention of the petition is to get her son’s school to rethink a dress code that, in Jessica’s eyes, is discriminatory.
On the petition page, then, Jessica wrote a message urging people to stand with her. She explained that she had tried to meet the school halfway by tying up her son’s hair, but he was sent home nonetheless. “It’s a sexist rule that should not be implemented for boys if it’s not implemented for girls,” she wrote.
And so far, the petition has reached over 11,000 signatures, with an overall target of 15,000. Plenty of people have commented on the page, too. “It’s stupid to deny a child an education just because they have long hair.
“If girls can have short haircuts, then why can’t boys have long hair?” one person wrote.