Treyvion Gray, an 18-year-old student in the Needville Independent School District, was told that he wouldn’t be allowed to walk in his graduation ceremony unless he cut his locs.

According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, Gray is now suing the school district “alongside its board of trustees, superintendent and high school principal and assistant principal – in federal court.”

Gray argues that his locs are an “expression of his Black identity and culture,” and says that the district’s dress code policy, which “prohibits boys from growing hair past their ears and eyebrows,” is both racial and sexual discrimination. 

The lawsuit was filed against the school district on April 19 and argues that Gray was “disproportionately targeted and penalized” by the school’s dress and hair policy which “profiles, singles out and burdens Black students who wear hair in its natural state.”

“The length of locs have no bearing on NISD Black students’ capacity to learn, yet the wholly arbitrary Dress and Hair policy restricts the mobility of Black students in public and private spaces, denies them of equal educational opportunities and strikes at the freedom and dignity of the NSID Black student population,” reads the lawsuit.

“It’s a part of me. It’s who I am,” Gray said about his locs. “My hair is a part of me, my heritage and my culture.”

He began growing his hair when he was a sophomore at his high school, but only began to receive backlash three months prior to his graduation. According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the school’s administration “made it their objective to suppress Gray’s expression of his identity and heritage.”

According to court records obtained by the publication, “the assistant principal would berate gray about his hair when he got to school each morning.” And continued doing so, while Gray’s white, male peers, were left unbothered despite wearing their hair at lengths that also defied the school’s dress code. 

On March 3, Gray was placed in in-school suspension and told that he would remain there until he agreed to cut his locs. Instead, the teen offered to compromise with the district by offering to tie his locs up into a ponytail. But his efforts were rejected by the administration.

Gray’s mother, who was notified of her son’s suspension via email, pleaded with the principal for an accommodation since his graduation date was steadily approaching.

According to the lawsuit, “no accommodations were made.”

“You’ll cut your hair to the right point,” the district’s superintendent, Curtis Rhodes, said in a previous lawsuit. “We’ve consistently been conservatively dressed, very conservatively disciplined. It’s no secret what our policy is: you’ll cut your hair to the right point.”

Gray stayed under  in-school suspension until early April, when he was told that he “ran out of days he could be in suspension,” according to court records. He was then told that if she showed up to school on April 15th, without having cut his hair, he would be “sent to the disciplinary alternative education program and not allowed to attend the commencement ceremony and other extracurricular activities,” also said in the lawsuit. 

On April 19th, Gray showed up to school – hair uncut and lawsuit filed. Yet the school continued to place him in the disciplinary alternative education program.

“As a result of being targeted, removed from the student population and threatened with not being allowed to participate in senior year activities, including [the] graduation ceremony, Gray’s emotional health has suffered, including stress and depression,” the lawsuit states. “[The district’s] hostile and wrongful actions individually and in the aggregate have made Gray feel unwelcome, ostracized and inferior.”

Gray is seeking compensatory damages, removal from the disciplinary program, the opportunity to attend his graduation ceremony, as well as a new dress code for the school district that remains free of discrimination.