The excitement for his first day of school at F.J. Young Elementary in Seminole, Texas, didn’t last long for 5-year-old Malachi Wilson.
Indian Country Today Media Network reports that school officials sent him home and told him to “cut his hair.”
Wilson, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, has a braid.
“After we had enrolled him he was excited. He was ready to go. Everyday it was—the question, ‘Mom, [am I] going to school?’” his mother, April Wilson, told CBS-affiliate Channel 7.
But that notable day in a child’s life would not happen for Malachi. He was turned away by school officials and sent home.
School administrators required that April bring documentation from the Navajo Nation proving Malachi’s indigenous parentage. April immediately contacted the Navajo Nation and the document was delivered to school officials. Malachi was enrolled after the school approved of the document’s authenticity.
Indian Country Today reporter Simon Moya-Smith said social media lit up after the incident.
“That story gets so much worse when you find out it happened in Seminole, TX, where students are called ‘Indians and Maidens,’” Twitter user Emily Lakdawalla wrote. The school’s mascot is an Indian and the school’s logo is of an Indian with feathers on his head.
The school defended its actions by citing procedure and school policy, Moya-Smith wrote. According to the school’s handbook, “certain recognized religious or spiritual beliefs may qualify from an exemption from provisions of the dress code. … Any exceptions to the dress code must receive prior approval by the campus administrator.”