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Teen Told To Cut Dreadlocks Gifted $20k On Ellen


Sidestepping the "lynch mob"
Ellen DeGeneres surprises black teen told to cut dreadlocks with $20,000 scholarship
DeGeneres urged a Texas school district to "do the right thing" and allow DeAndre Arnold to walk at graduation without having to cut his hair.

Ellen DeGeneres welcomes high school senior DeAndre Arnold from Mont Belvieu, Texas, who made national news after his school told him he couldn't walk at graduation unless he cuts his dreadlocks or wears them tied up in accordance with their dress code.Michael Rozman / Warner Bros.

Jan. 29, 2020, 4:52 PM EST / Updated Jan. 30, 2020, 11:17 AM EST
By Janelle Griffith

Ellen DeGeneres has taken up the cause of a black Texas high school student who was told he won't be allowed to return to school or attend his graduation ceremony unless he cuts his dreadlocks — and surprised him with a $20,000 scholarship.

DeAndre Arnold, a senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, appeared in an episode of "The Ellen Show" that aired Wednesday.

At the start of the segment, DeGeneres told Arnold, "I'm sure this is not easy or comfortable for you," referring to his appearance on television. "But I want you to just relax and know that I'm here for you."

"That's why you're here," she continued. "Because I don't understand this."

Arnold has said he was suspended over the length of his dreadlocks and told by his principal that he needed to cut his hair to return to school.

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"You get good grades," DeGeneres said. "You've never been in trouble, ever. This is the first time anything has come up. And now, you haven't been in school for weeks because of this situation."

Grammy Award-winning artist Alicia Keys showed her support by surprising DeAndre Arnold, and together, Ellen and Alicia give him a check for $20,000 to put towards college, courtesy of Shutterfly.Michael Rozman / Warner Bros.
Arnold has worn dreadlocks for years and has said he always followed the dress code because he kept his hair off his shoulders, above his earlobes and out of his eyes, by tying up his dreadlocks. He told DeGeneres he was informed he was in violation of the dress code after the Christmas break.

"Every day I would go to school, I would be in dress code," he told DeGeneres. "But the thing with them is, if it was let down, I would be out of dress code."

DeGeneres asked if there were girls in his school with long hair, to which he responded in the affirmative and said: "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?"

DeGeneres said that was the point she was trying to make.

"I just personally think you should be able to wear your hair however you want, especially if there's girls with long hair," she said. "What's the difference if girls have long hair and if guys have long hair?"

She said she did not think the policy was fair and asked Arnold to explain why his dreadlocks are important to him.

"It's really important to me because my dad is from Trinidad," he told her, adding that his dreadlocks are part of his culture and heritage. "And I really wish the school would kind of be open to other cultures and just, at least let us try to tell you some things. Don't just shut us out."

DeGeneres agreed. "I think that's what school's supposed to do," she said, "is teach you about other cultures. You're not supposed to teach them. They're supposed to teach you."

African Americans make up 3.1 percent of the Barbers Hill Independent School District population.

Barbers Hill High School has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Jami Navarre, spokeswoman for Barbers Hill Independent School District, declined an interview request and said the district would not be commenting further on the matter. She pointed NBC News to a statement the district released last week saying that the high school allows dreadlocks, but has for decades had a "a community-supported policy" about the length of male students’ hair.

Arnold, who has been out of school for weeks, said if he doesn't cut his hair, his only options are in-school suspension or an alternative school for children with behavioral issues.

DeGeneres then spoke into the camera and urged officials "to do the right thing."

"I am begging you. This kid is a good kid. He deserves to graduate, to walk with all the other kids," she said. "He's a good guy. I just am urging you to do the right thing. Please."

Afterward, she invited singer Alicia Keys on stage to award Arnold, who plans to become a veterinarian, a $20,000 scholarship for college.

"I want to tell you that, I couldn't believe the story when I heard it," Keys told Arnold. "And I'm super proud of you for standing up for what you know is right. And I know that the school needs to do the right thing."

Janelle Griffith is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.


Sidestepping the "lynch mob"
Why do you ask that?? :(
Has Ellen publicly supported any black woman or girl who also faced similar discrimination?

True..if he decides to join the military, he'll need to cut it, because dreadlocks don't have federal protection.

Won't he have to cut his hair if he join the service? (For the record, I don't agree with the school policy).
I'm tired of the discriminatory bans, too... Just last month, New Jersey became the third state to ban hair discrimination - after the young wrestler was forced to cut his dreads.


Well-Known Member
I wish. Him the best. I hope he can graduate from his school. That rule is aeful

Becoming a vet is super expensive so he'll need all the help he can get. Undergrad costs plus $150-400k for Vet school


Sidestepping the "lynch mob"
The thing is, it's a dress code and one that had allowed him to wear his locs until last month, when they suddenly changed the dress code while students were out on break. No warning, no community discussion..how sneaking can you get. The kid had been compliant and in code the whole time.

Texas sometimes forget we live in a Democracy and the community that pays its tax dollars to support the schools should have a right to be heard on policies that will negatively affect their children. The district isn't open to that. This is a state that forces haircuts on inmates, in spite of their religion or beliefs.

Lots of questions.. Has this "independent " school district ever graduated male students wearing locs? If a YT male student had long hair, would the rules have changed? The yt boys getting their cuts were getting trimmed and not being psychologically impacted. That's what bothers me about blacks who say.. just cut it and stay in line.

I find it ironic, the schools don't have a problem with the kids wearing locs when playing sports.. and, the irony of the school's name.. Barbers Hill.

I don't think this isn't going away anytime soon. Texas will be fighting hard against a change that is to come. This isn't about one kid who can cut his hair but about racial profiling, censorship, cultural intolerance and control of black people.

My understanding is it’s a policy about hair length for boys, not a specific style.
I still think it’s stupid but as long as they are requiring yt boys to get haircuts then they are not discriminating.


Well-Known Member
Why do you ask that?? :(

Just wondering. I sometimes feel BM’s challenges are more widely acknowledged unlike those of BW.

True..if he decides to join the military, he'll need to cut it, because dreadlocks don't have federal protection.

I'm tired of the discriminatory bans, too... Just last month, New Jersey became the third state to ban hair discrimination - after the young wrestler was forced to cut his dreads.


Sidestepping the "lynch mob"
@Maguerite I'm not sure if you mean acknowledgement of BW's challenges in general or specific to hair? But I don't think it matters who (BM/BW) gets acknowledged when it comes to discrimination of any kind. There have been lots of national-level stories in the recent past about BW's hair challenges, with effective change taking place. The Attica Scott story, for example, in which the school ended up changing its policy.

Since this is historically a dichotomous hair board, natural / relaxed hair sentiments have been expressed ad naseum... I did a quick search of "hair ban" and truthfully, stories like these don't get much support because sentiments are strong... even if the issue is a national one.