HOPEWELL, Va. -- A family said their son was told he had to cut his hair if he wanted to stay at his private school in Hopewell. Isaiah Freeman's dreadlocks are the source of controversy between his parents and West End Christian School administrators. The school said Isaiah's hair was too long and violated school rules.
His family said Isaiah's hair has been this way since he was in third grade. He attended the school then too.
“I was a bit confused because my hair has been that way for so long,” Isaiah said.
Isaiah’s dad, Shawn Freeman, said they pulled Isaiah's hair back so it would not be in his face or over his ears.
Isaiah said he was hoping that would fix the issue, “I was thinking they would approve it and I can go to school as normal.”
That was not the case.
School administrators found that the pulled back hair was unacceptable and said he needed to cut it or he would face a referral every day until it was cut.
West End Christian School principal Amy Griggs said they have asked the same of other male students. If they excused Isaiah, it could open the door to students challenging other policies.
Shawn said he told the school it was a cultural issue that needed to be addressed.
“As he gets older people are uncomfortable with him having dreadlocks and getting older and bigger. It's an issue of people feeling uncomfortable with a young black male having dreadlocks and having a certain persona of negativity.”
Principal Griggs said the dress code was designed to hold students to a higher standard and each year families sign a handbook agreeing to follow the rules, which the Freemans signed.
She said she's extremely saddened that Isaiah won't return to their school, calling him a respectful and exemplary student.
Principal Griggs said she looked at this as a learning experience. She said after speaking with the parents again, the School Board is considering diversity training and possibly changing the hair policy for next year.