- Texas teenager DeAndre Arnold was told by his school district that he would have to cut his dreadlocked hair per a recently-reworded rule.
- When he refused, citing his hair as a proud representation of his Trinidad heritage, he was suspended and told he could not walk at graduation.
- Since the controversy started, Arnold has received support from famous figures including Ellen DeGeneres and Alicia Keys, who gifted him $20,000 for college.
- Arnold and his mother also received an invitation to the Oscars by the makers of “Hair Love,” an animated short about a black father doing his daughter’s hair.
DeAndre Arnold has been suspended from his Texas high school for weeks, not due to poor grades or drug use, but because he won’t cut his dreadlocked hair.
In December, the 18-year-old was contacted by Barbers Hill Independent School District and told he would have to chop his long hair to be above his ear lobes, per a recently-reworded rule outlined in the student handbook. When Arnold refused, citing his hair as a proud representation of his father’s Trinidadian culture, his high school suspended him until he changes his mind.
Arnold was also told that he wouldn’t be allowed to walk in his upcoming graduation ceremony until he trimmed his dreadlocks.
The teen has been sporting his hairstyle since the seventh grade. He told CBS This Morning that he always wears his hair up and out of his face at school.
Superintendent Gregory Poole said the school’s dress code does not prohibit dreadlocks and is focused solely on the length of the hair. The district’s handbook was modified in recent months and now states that male students’ hair cannot extend a certain length regardless of whether it is worn down or tied back.
“Every school district in the nation has a dress code,” Poole told CBS.
“We’d love to see DeAndre back in class, and there’s no way we would inhibit him from graduating, but we are going to be fair to the 6,200 other kids that have to comply by the same policy,” Poole added.
But Arnold and his mother, Sandy Arnold, believe the controversy stems deeper, into issues of race. Arnold expressed that his hair is meaningful to him because it ties him to his heritage.
“The culture really plays a role in this,” Arnold told CBS. “Being around my dad, and around his people, I’ve really seen something that I wanted to take part in and, you know, the dread locks or the locks, that was just something that I really liked.”
“There’s no people of color on the school board,” DeAndre’s mother added. “So I get it, they don’t understand about his hair.”
Widespread Support for Arnold
The controversy has made headlines across the nation in the past few weeks, and Arnold has received a wave of support from people who have commended him for sticking to his guns.
On Thursday night, the teen was surprised with an invite to the Oscars by the people behind “Hair Love,” a nominated animated short that follows the story of a black man faced with the task of doing his daughter’s hair for the first time.
“Since Deandre Arnold’s school didn’t want to let him walk at his graduation because of his hair we figured that he should walk with us on the red carpet at the Oscars as our special guest,” director Matthew A. Cherry wrote.
The invitation was extended via a video message from Cherry and a couple of the film’s producers, Gabrielle Union and her husband Dwyane Wade, a recently-retired NBA All-Star.
Union and Wade are flying Arnold and his mother out to Los Angeles for the event where their tickets, wardrobe, and red carpet glam will all be taken care of.
The Oscars invitation was not the only form of support Arnold received from famous figures this week. When the teen appeared on an episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” that aired on Wednesday, he was presented with a $20,000 check by surprise guest Alicia Keys to go toward his college education and dreams of becoming a veterinarian.
“I couldn’t believe the story when I heard it,” Keys told Arnold. “And I’m super proud of you for standing up for what you know is right. And I know that the school needs to do the right thing.”
DeGeneres expressed her solidarity as well.
“I’m sure this is not easy or comfortable for you,” DeGeneres told him. “But I want you to just relax and know that I’m here for you.”
Arnold reiterated his hair’s significance during the episode.
“My hair is really important to me because my dad is from Trinidad and, you know, it’s part of our culture and our heritage,” he said. “And I really wish the school would kinda be open to other cultures and just at least let us try to tell you some things, don’t just shut us out.”
The popular talk show host also brought up that girls at the high school are allowed to keep their hair long, pointing out the discrepancy. She urged officials of the Barbers Hill School District to reconsider their punishment.
“I am begging you, this kid is a good kid,” DeGeneres said to the camera, addressing the school district’s administrators. “He deserves to graduate, to walk with all the other kids. He’s a good guy. I just am urging you to do the right thing. Please. Change your mind.”
Also on Wednesday, Houston Texans Wide Receiver DeAndre Hopkins tweeted his support for the young man with whom he shares his first name.
“Never cut your locks DeAndre Arnold,” Hopkins tweeted.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (NBC) (Washington Post)
Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”
- Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
- The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot.
- So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.
Florida Requires Proof of Residency
Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.
Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it.
According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.
Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers.
Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited
Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north.
“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)
Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”
- Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
- Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
- Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.
Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet
Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”
At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017.
Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony.
“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”
Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.
“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”
What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”
Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing.
“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”
“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”
Nation Impressed by Gorman
“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment.
“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”
Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration.
Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation.
Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day.
See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)
SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section
- The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June.
- The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
- Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary.
- It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.
College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay
College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.
Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”
The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary.
While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S.
Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.
With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.
The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test
In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.
In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.
According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.
For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April.