Five-Year-Old Navajo Malachi Wilson was denied admission into kindergaten because hair is too long
Native News Online’s Top Story of 2014
Editor’s Note: The following story rates as the most read Native News Online during 2014. It was published on August 27, 2014 and garnered many comments.
SEMINOLE, TEXAS — For five-year-old Malachi Wilson, the first day of kindergarten will always be one he remembers. As it turns out, Monday, which was the first day of school for students at F.J. Young Elementary School in Seminole, Texas, was not Malachi’s first day of school because he was sent home because of the length of his hair.
School principal Sherrie Warren informed April Wilson, Malachi’s mother, that Malachi’s hair is too long since he is a boy; therefore, he would not be able to attend classes until he got a haircut.
Malachi is Navajo on his father’s side of the family and Kiowa on his mother’s side.
Seminole is located in southwest Texas. F. J. Elementary School is home of the Seminole Indians. A sign near the school’s gymnasium reads: “Welcome to the Tribe.”
Wilson told Warren that Malachi is Native American and she and her husband don’t believe in cutting his hair. Malachi has never had a haircut, except for trims at the ends to keep it his hair healthy.
She explained to the principal that for religious beliefs Native Americans consider hair sacred and spiritual. The principal then asked Wilson if she could prove Malachi is Native American.
“I told her yes and told her what tribe he is part of,” Wilson told the Native News Online on Wednesday night.
Even with the explanation, Warren would not relent. Malachi was denied admission on his first day of kindergarten.
“I enrolled him back in June so I thought we were all set for Malachi to attend school on Monday,” Wilson said. “I checked the ‘Native American’ box on the enrollment form. People told me I was going to have problems with the people at the school.”
After Malachi and his mother left the school, Wilson called the Navajo Nation to assist in the documentation process. She also called a member of the American Indian Movement, who called the school district’s superintendant.
By mid-afternoon, the school called Wilson to inform her that Malachi could attend school the next day if she was willing to sign an exemption form with a brief explanation why Malachi wears his hair long.
“The principal asked me if I could pull his hair back and even tuck it into his shirt to hide it,” said Wilson. “I braid it all the time, so that was not a problem to keep it confined. But, I would not agree to have him put his hair down his shirt collar.”
On Tuesday, Malachi attended his first day of kindergarten – without incident.