Andrew Jones of Amite, Louisiana, was, by any stretch of the imagination, a standout student at Amite High School. He was a star football player, a straight-A student, and valedictorian of his class. Unfortunately, he was denied the opportunity to give the valedictorian speech and barred from graduation altogether because he refused to shave his facial hair.
As WWL-TV (New Orleans) reports, officially, Amite High School has a policy barring male students from having facial hair. Unofficially, however, the policy seems to be sporadically enforced, at best. WWL reporters were able to find two photos of Jones taken at different points in the school year, including one with him and Mark Kolwe, the superintendent of Tangipahoa Parish Schools. In both pictures, he wore a full beard.
#Amite valedictorian, Andrew Jones, not allowed to participate in his graduation ceremony bc of facial hair @WBRZ pic.twitter.com/b9sXscKZzz
— Natalia Verdina (@nataliaverdina) May 19, 2016
Nevertheless, Amite High School officials decided to be sticklers for the rules when it came to graduation last week. As Jones explains it, he and 13 other young men showed up for graduation with facial hair. All 13 were told, multiple times, to go shave, else risk not graduating. Jones was the only one who refused - he had already trimmed his full beard down to a goatee, thinking that would be enough.
"It don't make sense, every day of school I went with it, even more, I did shave. I had like sides and everything, but I shaved that for graduation."
After putting in all the work—and getting good grades—a high school senior in Amite, Louisiana couldn't enjoy his v… pic.twitter.com/RGghoPPzncIt wasn't enough, according to the Advocate. School officials took his graduation regalia and sent Jones home.
— Nick de Klerk (@nfdeklerk) May 20, 2016
"Eventually they took my gown. They told me they had to take my gown from me."
Sabrina Davis, Jones' aunt, wants to know why, specifically, the school district was so particular about the rules when it came to Jones that night despite his being a straight-A student.
"What was the real issue that he couldn't walk with his class? He was top of his class, you know, that moment was the most important moment of his life."
The NAACP, which is planning a rally for Jones outside the Tangipahoa Parish School Board Office later Monday, believes there may be a racial component to Jones' ordeal. The agency was able to find photos of bearded white students participating in graduation ceremonies at the school.
Moving forward, Kolwe has directed Amite High School officials to be more diligent about enforcing the school's facial hair policy. That means from the first day of school, all male students will be expected to be clean-shaven.
For Jones, he says he's sharing his story so that what happened to him won't be repeated. For now, he says, he's "moving on." Jones will be attending Southern Louisiana University this fall, where he'll be playing football and enjoying both athletic and academic scholarships.
Andrew's Aunt Sabina says the sky is the limit for the young valedictorian.
"For a young man that talented, and very academic, to hold a 4.0 and still manage to be a father to his child, the sky's the limit to me."
Meanwhile, Jones' story is gaining national attention. The Roots (the house band on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon) drummer Questlove even tweeted about it.
— Questlove Gomez (@questlove) May 21, 2016
Do you think Amite High School was right to bar Andrew Jones from graduation for violating the school's facial hair policy?
[Image via Shutterstock/www.billionphotos.com]