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‘Why didn’t they give him the respect?’ Black teen feels he has to leave school after refusing to cut his hair, parents say

Last week, high school freshman Braxton Schafer was facing the possibility of expulsion over the length of his hair, his mother, Toni Schafer, told CNN. But the school denies there was an ultimatum.

The 14-year-old wears his hair in a traditional African twist known as locs. He has been at Bishop O’Gorman Catholic School system in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, since he was in the sixth grade.

In a statement to CNN this week, the Bishop O’Gorman Catholic School Administration said, “it is a common practice at the beginning of the school year to have to visit with numerous students about the length of their hair.”

But Schafer said she was upset because no one ever expressed concern about the length of his hair until the start of this school year.

Schafer said she was approached by a school administrator during a school event on August 24 at which point the administrator raised the issue of Braxton’s hair and said it was too long.

On Thursday, Schafer sent an email to the school’s principal that explained the cultural significance of the length of her son’s hair. Schafer referenced Samson from the Bible as an example of the importance.

On Friday, Schafer and her husband, Derrick Schafer, met with the principal in person to further discuss their son’s hair and the principal reiterated it was the length that was the issue, the Schafers said.

Derrick Schafer said as a compromise they could pull up Braxton’s hair so that it wouldn’t touch his collar. The Schafers told CNN that the school responded that “man buns” aren’t allowed.

The Schafers had a conversation with their son that evening after his football practice and shared with him what his options were. He could either cut his hair or they may have to find him a new school.

But in a statement to CNN, the school administration said, “despite representations to the contrary, at no time did school administrators tell the parents that if the student did not cut his hair he would have to leave or be expelled.”

Braxton’s parents said that he the loved school, but he didn’t want to cut his hair.

“He has had this hair since he was three years old. And the length of his hair has been the same since he started attending the school,” an emotional Toni told CNN.

“Why didn’t they give him the respect?” she said, adding that if the school would have told the family at the end of the previous school year, they would have time to find a new school.

Over the weekend, the Schafers received an email from the school informing them their son would be allowed to finish the semester but would have to follow school policy to stay at the school.

In the statement to CNN, the Bishop O’Gorman Catholic School Administration said, “the meeting with the parents ended with the understanding that further dialogue would occur in the hope of finding a resolution that would allow the student to remain at our school.”

“Prior to being able to engage in further dialogue, the parents of the student took to social media to present their version of events,” the statement continued.

The Schafers told CNN they will honor their son’s wish and will look for another school that will let him keep his hair.

School administrators told CNN, “they would welcome further dialogue with the parents regarding a solution that would allow the student to stay.”

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