When all other Seminole, Texas students were headed to their first day of school on Monday, one little boy was sent home because his hair was too long. The five-year-old boy, Malachi Wilson, is a part of the Navajo Nation, and according to his parents, it’s against their religion to cut his hair. CBS 7’s Lauren Lanmon reports.
The district says they were only following procedure and after proper documentation was shown that he was truly Native American, he was allowed to register. But his mother says even though he is in school now, they’ll never get back their first day of Kindergarten.
“Malachi was excited to start school all summer long. After we had enrolled him he was excited, everyday it was the question, ‘mom, are we going to school?’” said Malachi’s mother, April Wilson.
Excited about his first day of school, Malachi walked into the doors of F.J. Young Elementary only to be told he couldn’t attend because his hair was too long.
“Our hair is sacred to us, it makes us part of who we are,” said April.
“I trim it, it grows back,” said Malachi.
Malachi has a certificate in blood from the Navajo Nation stating he is at least one half Native American.
“He’s more native on his dad’s side than on mine,” said April.
After leaving the school, Malachi’s mother contacted the Navajo Nation, and by the end of the school day, the school district approved his documentation and Malachi was enrolled. “I also spoke with the American Indian movement; they had also contacted the superintendent. When they contacted the superintendent, they had told them that they were going to accept Malachi into school.”
School district officials say they followed procedure “one hundred percent”, pointing to a page in the district handbook that states, “certain recognized religious or spiritual beliefs may qualify for an exception from provisions of the dress code.” The handbook goes on to say that with proper documentation all students are allowed. But even though Malachi is now enrolled, his mom is still bothered by their first day of school encounter.
“It’s kind of heartbreaking because - how do you explain to a five-year-old that he is being turned away because of what he believes in, because of his religion, because of what’s part of him - how do you explain that to him?” said April.
April says after yesterday’s events, she has even thought about taking him out of public school adding she still plans on finding a lawyer to talk about the possibility of a discrimination case.
More than 100,000 of the nearly 300,000 members of the Navajo Nation live in New Mexico. There have been incidents dating back to the late-19th century in which people have forced Navajo schoolchildren to cut their hair, something forbidden the Nation’s culture.
Fear cuts deeper than swords.