A mother is furious after her four-year-old son was banned from attending his local preschool, purely because he has long hair.
Jabez Oates, of Mont Belvieu, Texas, who has had long hair "since birth" was excited to attend his first day of school at Barbers Hill Kindergarten Centre this week. However, according to his mum Jessica Oates, her little boy's excitment was short-lived.
The Barber Hill School District has since informed Ms Oates that Jabez's hair violates their school dress code policy - and he won't be able to attend their kindy.
"My son likes his hair," Ms Oates told Inside Edition. "He doesn't understand why he is not allowed in school over something so trivial."
The furious mum has now launched a petition via change.org to protest the district's "sexist" dress code, which she has labelled "blatant discrimination". It has since attracted over 3,000 signatures of support.
"I am challenging this school board for a variety of reasons, all near and dear to my heart," Ms Oates writes, adding that Jabez's hair is part of his identity. "In my home it isn't taught that boys shouldn't have long hair because all the other little boys have short hair," she said.
But while her son has told her "time and time again" that he loves his hairstyle, it's not the only reason he wears his hair long. "My family is Cocopah Indian," Ms Oates said, "and hair has always been a sign of strength."
The mum also called out the mixed messages she had been given by the school, claiming they initially told her Jabez could keep his hair long provided she supply documentation explaining why.
"So I set out to do just that," Ms Oates said. "I got my innocent little four-year-old absolutely ENTHRALLED about going to school." Since then, however, the frustrated mum was told that documentation would not be allowed and he would not be eligible for enrolment into their school district.
"It's a sexist rule that should not be implemented for boys if it's not implemented for girls. It's that simple," Ms Oates said. "Girls have no rule on the length of their hair and it does not pose safety threats nor distraction concerns."
Ms Oates believes "the same courtesy" should be extended to her little boy, adding that she has tried to meet administrators halfway. "I have no problem putting his hair up or keeping it in a bun," she said, explaining that these solutions have been deemed "not good enough."
"On Monday, I tried to take to my son to school, and I put his hair in a bun and I tied it with a little black hair tie," she continued. "They said that the black hair tie was inappropriate and they would not allow him to go."
A copy of the school's dress code, available online, stipulates, "Boy's hair will not extend below the eyebrows, below the ear lobes, or below the top of a t-shirt collar. Corn rows and/or dread locks are permitted if they meet the aforementioned lengths. Ponytails or tails are not acceptable on male students."
In a statement issued to Inside Edition, Barbers Hill school district said they would not be making an exception for Jabez - and that Ms Oates should enrol her son elsewhere.
"Our policies, including expectations of appearance, are fashioned by our Board of Trustees, all of whom are taxpayers in the Barbers Hill school district and have had children attend our schools," they said. "Parents have a right to seek an appropriate educational setting for their child, just as Ms. Oates has the right to place her child in a district that reflects her personal expectations for standards of appearance."
It's a view shared by a number of anonymous parents who have launched their own petition in support of the school's stance, urging the district to "stand strong".
"This petition is being made to show that many of us support our administration and its dress code," it reads. "The recent media coverage is depicting the district in the wrong light. We want to show that we as citizens of this Town love and support our board. Stand Strong BH. We back you."