MONT BELVIEU, Texas — DeAndre Arnold – the Mont Belvieu teen who was told he wouldn’t be able to walk at his graduation unless he cuts his hair – was given a $20,000 check during his appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres show.
Arnold, 18, was invited on the show after his story made national headlines. He is refusing to cut his dreadlocks, which is prohibiting him to go to school or walk at graduation because he is not in compliance with the district’s dress code.
Arnold and his family addressed the Barbers Hill Independent School District school board in regards to the issue but got nothing resolved.
“I’ve worked for this all my life. … I deserve this moment to walk across the stage and enter into life. My parents deserve this,” Arnold said on the show.
DeGeneres told Arnold that she didn’t understand why his school wasn’t allowing him to walk because of the length of his hair, especially because girls are allowed to have long hair at the school.
“But are there girls in your school,” DeGeneres asked. “Do the girls have long hair?”
“There’s plenty of girls with long hair at my school. Like, if girls can have long hair why can’t I have long hair?” DeAndre said.
“That’s my point. That’s what I don’t understand,” DeGeneres replied.
Arnold hasn’t been to school for a couple of weeks because he refuses to cut his hair. He told DeGeneres if he was to return to school he would either have to do in-school suspension or go to an alternative school, which is a program for students with behavioral issues.
Barbers Hill ISD’s policy states male students can’t have long hair, specifically past the earlobe.
Arnold said the biggest reason why he refuses to cut his hair is because his locks are a representation of his Trinidadian culture.
Arnold said he really wants to walk across the stage at graduation, not only because he feels he deserves it, but because it would be an exciting moment for his parents.
At one moment in the show, DeGeneres looked in a camera and pleaded with Arnold’s school to let him walk across the stage.
“I am begging you. This kid is a good kid. He deserves to graduate, to walk with all the other kids, he’s a good guy. I’m just urging you to do the right thing. Please. Change your mind,” DeGeneres said.
Of course, DeGeneres had a surprise up her sleeve for Arnold.
Before his segment was over, Grammy Award winner Alicia Keys appeared on stage and surprised him with a $20,000 check to go towards his college tuition.
“I couldn’t believe the story and I am super proud of you for standing up for what is right,” Keys said.
Arnold said he wants to go to school to be a veterinarian.
We reached out to Barbers Hill ISD for comment but didn’t receive a response.
Some people in Mont Belvieu, such as Karl Lyles, watched the segment and can relate to the teen.
“I remember back in ’85 I had one of the longest hair in school,” Lyles said.
However, he questioned why Hollywood A-listers are getting involved.
“I’m all behind celebrities supporting different things but I think they’re getting too political anyway,” Lyles said. “They’re sticking their noses in places they shouldn’t be stuck in to start with.”
Others, like Hector Garcia, said they followed the rules when they were in school.
“Back in the 80s I had the mullet and the school I went had the same policy as Barbers Hill, you could wear the mullet in the summer and you had to trim up when it came to school,” Garcia said.
He also believes there’s nothing wrong with standing for what you believe in.
“As long as you feel positive about what you do you deal with the consequences. As long as you feel good about yourself I think it’s the right thing to do,” Garcia said.
It’s unknown if Arnold plans to stay in Barbers Hill ISD or move to another district.
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