The stress of school can go beyond what's taught in a classroom. For Habib Dwabi, look no further than the top of his head.
The Joshua Independent School District has had a long-standing grooming code for boys' hair. Earlier this year, Faye Abunijmeh was notified that her son was in violation of that grooming code.
"He's been growing it since Pre-K, for five years," said Faye Abunijmeh, Habib's mother.
Five years is a long time when you consider Habib is only nine years old. Faye told WFAA that they decided some time ago to grow the hair and later donate it to cancer patients.
"Some people would like to have hair after they had cancer," said Habib.
The family says they have been in touch with the group Wigs for Kids. Requirements on the group's website show that the hair must be at least 12 inches long.
"The regulation states it needs to be cut just above the eye brow," said one student who arrived at a Monday night board meeting to challenge the rule.
Several parents and students attended the board meeting to share their displeasure with the code.
"It's very discriminatory towards our boys," said one parent.
The superintendent says the code has been in place at least 30 years.
Joshua ISD dress code:
The grooming regulations below are expected to be followed by all JISD students:
- Boys’ hair should not extend beyond the following limits: a. Front – Hair/Bangs, when combed straight down, must not be longer than the top of the eyebrows. Side - The entire ear may be covered but should not exceed the corner of the jawbone on the sides. Sideburns should not be more than one-half inch below the bottom of the ear lobe. b. Back - Hair must be cut so that it is no longer than the bottom of the dress shirt collar or top of a t- shirt collar.
- Boys’ hair will not be worn in tails, ponytails, or buns.
- Extreme hair styles or extreme colors are unacceptable.
- Black lipstick is not allowed.
"If they wanna grow their hair let them be, that's who they are. If they want to express themselves that way, let it be," said Abunijmeh.
Superintendent Fran Marek tells WFAA the review of the code happens in the spring. The code was already approved for this year and changing it is unlikely.
Faye says she will continue to fight for her son to keep his hair. Habib went to the first day of school in a braid. It's a workaround that may not soon work if the school district does not budge.
WFAA has been made aware of posts that appear to be from the mother citing other reasons for keeping her child's hair long. Several residents from the city have also reached out to WFAA to highlight discrepancies they have found in Faye Abunijmeh's reasoning.
WFAA promptly made contact with the mother who denied those accusations. Abunijmeh again made it clear that the hair would go for a cancer donation and that she is most upset by alleged gender discrimination in the code.
WFAA reached out to Kim Henderson, who is a councilwoman for the City of Joshua. Henderson made the following statement on the record in regards to posts allegedly made by the mother Faye Abunijmeh.
"After realizing the actual intent, I felt like she was trying to embarrass and shame our school for not changing or bending the rules for her. I feel it was her intent to gain support through sympathy for her cancer donation when in fact, that was not the reason," wrote Kim Henderson.