Judge briefly blocks Texas schools’ gender-based hair policy

MAGNOLIA, Texas (AP) — A federal judge has temporarily blocked a Texas school district’s enforcement of a grooming policy that prohibits boys from having long hair.

Chief U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal’s ruling on Monday came days after seven students, ages 7 to 17, sued the Magnolia Independent School District alleging gender discrimination over the policy that bans boys — and not girls — from having long hair.

Rosenthal’s ruling covers a small group of students who she said were being harmed by the policy, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The district has said its grooming policy complies with state law and is in line with community values.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of six boys and one nonbinary student by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and three major Houston law firms.

Three of the boys kept their hair long and ultimately stopped attending school as a result of the policy. Rosenthal ordered the district to let them return to class. The nonbinary student, who sometimes wore barrettes and clips in their locks, was allowed back in class under an exemption the judge extended. That exemption was set to expire this week.

Attorney Brian Klosterboer, from the ACLU of Texas, said he spoke with the students’ parents and they said the young plaintiffs were “so happy to go back to school.”

Rosenthal said she would determine at the next hearing what to do about the other three plaintiffs who reluctantly cut their hair at the start of school in August but are growing it back.

That hearing, which is set for Nov. 10, will address a preliminary injunction being sought by the plaintiffs. If granted, such an order would last until the lawsuit is resolved, and could potentially extend to more children.

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