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Texas 11-year-old faces in-school suspension for his hairstyle, mom advocates for change

Posted at 11:05 AM, Apr 20, 2021

TROY, TX — An 11-year-old student has faced in-school suspension for two weeks because his hairstyle violates the school district's dress code — and now, his family is calling for change.

Maddox Cozart, a Native American and African-American student in the Troy Independent School District, spent 10 days on in-school suspension because his braided hair violates the district's dress code.

Maddox's mother, Hope Cozart, and the rest of his family spoke out against the suspension, saying the rule needs to change.

“It’s disheartening. He’s a child. A child shouldn’t have to go through this over hair,” Cozart said.

Cozart says her 11-year-old son braided his hair to learn more about his African heritage. She believes the suspension is teaching him that he can’t express himself.

“This community is growing and we need to open up change for others that are going to come in. Let them know that we accept them,” Cozart said.

Supporters of the school policy say Cozart is trying to turn the situation into something it’s not. They believe her son should comply with the rule like everyone else.

“It’s not a race issue until they made it one. It’s a rule issue,” one school supporter said.

Cozart said her daughter also faced backlash from the district when she dyed her hair red earlier this year.

She said at that time, the principal stepped in to veto discipline against her daughter. Troy ISD superintendent Neil Jeter said the board will not comment on the disciplinary actions of one of their students.

Cozart said she’s planning to take legal action against the district and is hoping the Texas lawmakers pass legislation to allow her son to keep his hairstyle.

In recent years, several states and cities have passed legislation that bans policies that penalize people of color for wearing hair in styles that embrace their cultural identities. California, New York and the city of Cincinnati are among the local governments that have passed such laws.

This story was originally published by Jarell Baker on KXXV in Waco, Texas.