Accommodate Native American Student, AU Urges

A Texas public school cannot force a Native American student to cut his hair, Americans United has argued in a friend-of-the court brief filed before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


Elementary school student Adriel Arocha and his family challenged a grooming policy at NeedvilleIndependentSchool District that bans long hair for male students. The Arochas contend that the boy’s hair is mandated by their Native American religious beliefs.


The boy’s parents met with school officials, but the district refused to grant Arocha a religious exemption to the policy.


A federal district court ruled in Arocha’s favor in January, but A.A. v. Needville Independent School District has been appealed to the 5th Circuit.


“Public school students have the right to engage in religious activities so long as they are not disruptive and don’t infringe on anyone else’s rights,” said Richard B. Katskee, assistant legal director of Americans United. “Adriel’s decision to wear long hair easily meets both of those tests.”


AU’s brief was drafted by attorneys David Gossett and Maria Glover of the Mayer Brown law firm with input from Katskee and AU Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan.