Texas School Won’t Let Native American Attend His First Day Of Kindergarten Because Of His Long Hair

The First Amendment also protects Malachi’s right to wear his hair long, especially because his long hair is an expression of his family’s beliefs and ethnic heritage. As the Supreme Court held in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, a school may typically only suppress a student’s free expression when it can show that the expression would “materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school.” Again, it is difficult to imagine how a single student’s hair could create such a disruption.

Additionally, Texas law provides robust protections for the free exercise of religion. Although the Texas law sensibly departs from federal law by explicitly providing that religious liberty claims generally cannot be used to overcome civil rights law, the only civil rights at stake in Malachi’s case is his own right to attend school without having to change his hair. So it is likely that the school violated Malachi’s rights under Texas law when it sent him home from school, in addition to committing several violations of the Constitution.

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