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His School Told Him He Had To Cut His Dreadlocks To Graduate, So Ellen Cut Him A $20K Check Instead

DeAndre Arnold, a senior at Barbers Hill High School in Texas, was told he won’t be allowed to return to school or attend his own graduation unless he cuts his dreadlocks off.

He had previously been sent to in-school suspension for his hair, which is part of his Trinidadian culture. “I really like that part of Trinidadian culture,” he said. “So I always embraced that.”

When Ellen DeGeneres heard about the absurd situation, she decided to have Arnold on her show Wednesday—and she, along with Grammy Award-winning artist Alicia Keys, presented him with $20,000 to be put towards college.

“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.”

Arnold told Ellen he was suspended over the length of his dreadlocks and told by his principal that he needed to cut his hair before he would be able to return to school. He explained he has worn dreadlocks for years and always followed the dress code because he kept his hair off his shoulders, above his earlobes, and out of his eyes.

“Every day I would go to school, I would be in dress code,” Arnold told DeGeneres. “But the thing with them is, if [my hair] 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?”

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

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Ellen asked Arnold, who has dreams of becoming a veterinarian, to talk about why his hair was important to him. Arnold told her that his dad is from Trinidad and that dreadlocks are part of his culture and heritage.

“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.”

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.

“I want to tell you that, I couldn’t believe the story when I heard it,” Keys said. “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.”

Patricia Grisafi

Written by Patricia Grisafi