A Texas teen who was told he’d be banned from his high school graduation unless he cut his dreadlocks attended the Oscars with the creators of the Oscar-winning short film “Hair Love.”
The film’s director, Matthew A. Cherry, and Karen Rupert Toliver, the film’s producer, hit the red carpet alongside 18-year-old DeAndre Arnold at Sunday night’s ceremony.
The teen had been invited last month to the awards by Cherry and producers Dwayne Wade and Gabrielle Union.
“We’ve all been so inspired by your story, and this is the very least we can do to thank you for standing up for yourself and for your right to wear your natural hair at school,” Cherry said in a video surprising Arnold.
Last month, Arnold gained national attention when he was suspended for refusing to cut his dreadlocks to a length that would be in compliance with Barbers Hill Independent School District’s policy. The school said the length of his hair was against a school policy that says boys can’t have hair past their earlobes.
"Every school district in the nation has a dress code,” The school's superintendent, Greg Poole told KHOU-11. “I don’t think you can go to school in your underwear.”
Arnold, whose family is from Trinidad, said he refused to cut it because his hair holds significance for his culture.
“It's part of our culture and our heritage,” Arnold told Ellen DeGeneres of his decision. “And I really wish the school would kind of be open to other cultures and just at least let us try to tell you some things. Don't just shut us out.”
DeGeneres awarded the teen $20,000 on the show.