Parents Snip Braid Compromise in Follicle Fight

Mesquite ISD says 4-year-old disciplined for long hair can upbraid his locks

Tuesday, Jan 12, 2010  |  Updated 3:46 PM CDT
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In this Dec. 16, 2009 image made from video, four-year-old Taylor Pugh is seen in Balch Springs, Texas. The parents of Pugh, a pre-kindergarten student nicknamed Tater Tot, are battling a suburban Dallas school's decision to segregate their son because his long locks violate the district dress code. (AP Photo/Rich Matthews)

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The parents of a floppy-haired pre-kindergartner whose 'do landed him in in-school suspension rejected the school board's suggestion of a braid.

The Mesquite Independent School District decided Monday to allow Taylor Pugh to upbraid his hair, putting it into a tight braid against his head that doesn't turn into a ponytail. The board met in closed executive session Monday night to hear an appeal from the boy's mother.

Elizabeth Taylor says she wants her son, nicknamed "Tator Tot," back in regular class with his friends. But Tator Tot's parents said the upbraid idea is a no-go because the hairstyle gives the 4-year-old a headache.

"Our founding fathers, the same people that signed his constitutional rights, have hair longer than his. C'mon!" said Delton Pugh Jr., the boy's father.

Tator Tot has been alone in the library with a teacher's aide since late November because his long hair violates the district's grooming policy.

"Why can't he decide how long his hair is?" Taylor said. "If it has nothing to do with his education, why does he have to cut it?"

Tator Tot's parents say their son likes his hair long and is growing it to donate to an aunt who is fighting cancer.

"He (doesn't) understand what Locks of Love is," Pugh said. "He wants to give hair to his aunt. Locks of Love is the way for him to do that."

Pugh told the Dallas Morning News last month that he would move out of the district before he would force his son to cut his hair. He told the newspaper that his son "loves his hair."

Taylor said she offered to put her son's hair in a pony tail and slick back the front, but school officials insisted the boy's hair be cut.

His parents said Monday that they will take him to school with his hair in a ponytail held by a clip, and Tator Tot will continue his lessons while serving in-school suspension. But they said the hairy ordeal isn't hurting Tator Tot's performance at school.

"He misses his friends and wants to go play. He still makes 'As' and 'Bs' just like before," Pugh said.

The Mesquite ISD's dress code has been enforcing hair length since at least the 1970s, when the district sent home a 10-year-old boy because his hair touched his collar.

And the parents of a Mesquite middle school student are homeschooling their son after he ran into trouble over trendy skinny pants.

The Associated Press' Jeff Carlton and NBCDFW's Lita Beck and Omar Villafranca contributed to this report.

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