Auburn, Ala. school officials and the family of a Black high school student who was barred from playing basketball because he insisted on wearing his hair in braids settled a racial discrimination lawsuit against the school system Dec. 19.
The two sides reached an agreement after the school system decided to standardize its grooming policy for athletes.
“We feel very good about it,” Julian McPhillips, the attorney for the family of Blaise Taylor, told The Opelika-Auburn News.
The new uniform grooming policy will go into effect in the fall of 2011, but until then, the rules that created the controversy in the first place will remain in place for the remainder of the 2010 basketball season.
Taylor, the son of Auburn University assistant head coach Trooper Taylor, was prevented from playing on the junior varsity high school basketball team because the coach, who is Black, told him he couldn’t play on the team unless he cut his hair. The ninth-grader refused to change his hairstyle and his family filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Alabama Dec. 10.
“I was in a state of shock and disbelief,” Blaise told the News. “I worked hard to make the team and make it through the cuts. I was really disappointed I wasn’t going to get to play with my teammates.”
Blaise’s mother Evi claimed that braids are a part of Black culture and making him change is taking away part of his identity.
“If the rule made sense to me, I could see where we would follow the rule, but this rule is asking him to alter his physical appearance and change a part of him,” Evi told Auburn NBC WSFA. “And his braids are part of his ethnic identity.”
“The Board and the Taylors will continue to discuss ways to improve participation and the overall experience for students participating in all sports at Auburn High School, including a review of all policies and rules for team membership,” a statement released by Auburn City Schools stated. “Presently, a uniform policy across all sports for grooming of athletes is being developed such that, upon approval by the Board, all sports will operate under one policy.”