The valedictorian of a high school in Louisiana was not allowed to participate in his graduation because of his beard.
Andrew Jones of Amite, Louisiana, is said to have a perfect academic record and was named student of the year. He was also a star athlete at Amite High School, WVUE reports.
But despite his accolades, the school said that rules are in place. He headed to Southeastern Louisiana University assembly center on May 18 to walk as the valedictorian of the class, and officials prevented him from attending the ceremony.
“He’s got a child, he’s got a baby and he’s still managed those grades,” Sabrina Davis, his aunt, told the news station.
“Eventually they took my gown,” Jones told WWL-TV of the incident.
He added: “They told me they had to take my gown from me.”
The school’s district policy forbids males wearing facial hair. Tangipahoa Schools Superintendent Mark Kolwe said Jones and his family were told about the policy at least three times, including on the day of the ceremony.
— Natalia Verdina (@nataliaverdina) May 19, 2016
Jones said he didn’t shave because the facial hair policy has never been enforced. He said other classes allowed students to have beards during graduation.
“It don’t make sense, every day of school I went with it, even more, I did shave,” Jones said, “I had like sides and everything, but I shaved that for graduation.”
“What was the real issue that he couldn’t walk with his class?” Davis added to WWL-TV. “He was top of his class, you know, that moment was the most important moment of his life.”
The local NAACP is now investigating the matter. “His robe and cap were taken so he could not march, and that’s just wrong,” Patricia Morris, head of the local NAACP chapter, told WVUE.