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Kindergartner told to cut off braids or he can't go back to Port Arthur charter school

Some parents at Tekoa Academy of Accelerated Studies STEM School are upset after their children were told they cannot return to school without a haircut.

PORT ARTHUR — A kindergartner and Pre-K student at a Port Arthur charter school have been told they can't come to class without cutting their braids off.

Ayden Jones, 5, who has never had his hair cut, has been attending the school for a couple of years now with no issues, but this year Tekoa Academy of Accelerated Studies STEM School now says his hairstyle is against the rules.

Jones' grandmother, Shawn Fontenot, and other parents at Tekoa Academy told 12News they are upset after their sons were told they cannot return to class without a haircut.

"Now if he was starting this year, his first year, that's your policy, I have no problem with that, but he's been here three years already, so why is it a problem now," said Fontenot.

She said she's never been informed of any hair policy in previous years. If she had known beforehand, she said she would have never sent him to Tekoa in the first place. Fontenot requested a meeting to discuss the policy and find out why she hasn't heard about it.

"I got a call the next day at 9:30 that she is not meeting with no parents. Cut his hair, or get out," said Fontenot.

"Our policies are our policies and our procedures are our procedures," a Tekoa Academy spokesperson said, adding that the rules have always been a part of the school's policy. The spokesperson said the school strives to teach students at a young age that appearance is everything. She went on to say parents who disagree with the school's policies have the right to send their children to a different school.

"We have standards here and kids love standards," she said. "They love boundaries."

Tekoa Academy's dress and grooming policy states boys' hair can't go below the bottom of a normal sports collar shirt, the bottom of the ears, past the eyebrows, or higher than two inches. The hair can't be braided, tied, or making a tail on any part of the head.

But the parents said even if the policy has been in place for some time, they were not told about the rules or given a handbook containing the rules.

Tisha Francis said her grandson Joseph's hair is a part of his culture.

"He has long beautiful hair, and my grandson is of Hispanic heritage and his hair is his glory, as the Bible says, and I see no reason to cut it, he doesn't want a haircut at four and me, my son and my daughter-in-law don't want it cut.

Both Francis and Fontenot agreed that they could understand if the hair was distracting, but it isn't. They said it's neatly kept, and groomed.

"It's just a shame that something as petty as a child's hair being a reason to stop him from learning," said Francis.