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FERRELL v. DALLAS INDEP. SCH. DIST.

December 9, 1966

L. W. FERRELL and Jo Ferrell, Next Friends of Phillip Ferrell, June Webb, Next Friend of Stephen Webb, and V. R. Jarvis and Margaret Jarvis, Next Friends of Paul Jarvis, Plaintiffs,
v.
DALLAS INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, W. T. White and W. S. Lanham, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: TAYLOR, JR.

 Plaintiffs brought this action for an alleged violation of the right of the minor plaintiffs, Phillip Ferrell, Stephen Webb, and Paul Jarvis, to attend W. W. Samuell High School in the Dallas Independent School District, alleging that jurisdiction of this court was based upon § 1 of Amend. 14 of the United States Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Public Laws 88-352, Title 42, U.S. Code Annotated, and particularly §§ 1981, 1983 and 2000a. Plaintiffs alleged that the minor plaintiffs were, in all respects, qualified to enter the academic facilities of the Defendant, Dallas Independent School District, but were being denied the right to admission and enrollment solely because of the length and style of the minor plaintiffs' hair; that Defendant W. S. Lanham, Principal of W. W. Samuell High School, discriminated against the minor plaintiffs and that such action was arbitrary, discriminatory, and violated the constitutional right of plaintiffs to equal opportunity for a public education. Because of the recognized importance of an education and the importance of classroom work at the commencement of school, a temporary order requiring admission of the minor plaintiffs was granted pending hearing and was made returnable to the Court on September 22, 1966.

 Defendants, Dallas Independent School District, W. T. White, Superintendent of the Dallas Independent School System, and Defendant W. S. Lanham, Principal of the W. W. Samuell High School, answered and among other things questioned the jurisdiction of this Court on the ground that no question arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States was before this Court. The Defendants also claimed that the alleged Federal questions were frivolous and unsubstantial, and also that the Court had no jurisdiction for the reason that plaintiffs had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies by submitting or presenting to the Board of Education of the Dallas Independent School District, State Commissioner of Education, and the State Board of Education, the alleged claim. These legal defenses were taken under advisement and the Court proceeded to hear the testimony offered by plaintiffs and Defendants.

 It appears from the testimony that on the morning of September 7, 1966, the opening day of school, instead of reporting to their home rooms, as was the usual procedure, the Plaintiff Stephen Webb, accompanied by his mother, the Plaintiff Phillip Ferrell, accompanied by his mother, and Plaintiff Paul Jarvis, accompanied and represented by Kent Alexander, the booking agent of the minor plaintiffs, went to the office of Mr. Lanham, the Principal of W. W. Samuell High School. The purpose of this visit was to confer with Mr. Lanham, it being understood that admission to the high school would be denied by Mr. Lanham because of the hair style of the boys. Mr. Lanham refused to admit the boys to school and advised them to get their hair cut or trimmed before coming back to enroll.

 As described by the mother of Stephen Webb, who was 18 years of age on September 7, 1966, Stephen's hair "is over his ears, but one can see the lobe of his ear. It is not over his collar, but is over his forehead and down to his eyebrows." As described by the mother of Paul Jarvis, "his hair is about 1 inch over his ears and about 1 1/2 inches above his eyebrows." Phillip Ferrell's hair, if hanging straight forward, would come below his eyebrows, but is combed and turned to the side so as to be a very short distance above his eyebrows. The hair extends down to the ear lobe on the side and to the collar in the back. This hair style adopted by these plaintiffs is in conformity with the so-called "Beatle" type hair style. There are numerous pictures admitted in evidence in the record, not only of plaintiffs, but also of other musical combos, more accurately showing this Beatle type hair style. Among other things, the boys testified that they had attended W. W. Samuell High School the year before and that their hair during that school year had been as long as it was on September 7, 1966.

 After being refused admission to W. W. Samuell High School, the boys went to several other Dallas High Schools seeking admission by transfer from the Samuell High School District. They were advised by Mr. Lanham that it was too late to make application for transfer to another high school. Within a short time the boys went to the Administration Building of the Dallas Independent School District to see the Superintendent, and according to the testimony of Paul Jarvis, were met on the steps by a Mr. Allen, whom he understood to be the Assistant Superintendent. They were advised by Mr. Allen that there was no rule concerning the length of a boy's hair and that the Principal of each school set his own rules and regulations in this regard and that there was no written rule in the book. It also appears that Mr. Lanham first told Paul Jarvis that he would be admitted, but would have to have his hair trimmed in a couple of days. However, when Jarvis went to school the next day he was advised by Mr. Lanham that the matter had been reconsidered and that he would not be admitted until he did have his hair trimmed.

 Plaintiffs called to the witness stand some seven young boys, ages 17 and 18, who had the Beatle type hair style, three of whom attended W. W. Samuell High School, two of whom attended Mesquite High School, one of whom attended W. T. White High School, and one of whom was attending Dallas Junior College. From their testimony it appeared that this type hair style had been in vogue about three to three and a half years and that some problems had developed in the beginning, but that this type of hair style was now generally accepted by other students and occasioned no difficulties at this time. One of the Mesquite High School students testified that he thought that the coaches, athletes and teachers created whatever problems developed in regard to the long hair. There was some testimony to the effect that some of the athletes at a nearby high school were now wearing the Mohawk style haircut.

 Plaintiffs also called to the stand Dr. W. T. White, Superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District. Dr. White produced the Book", which is entitled "Administrative Policies and Procedures of the Dallas Independent School District." It appears in the record as Defendants' Exhibit 2. Among other things, these administrative policies and procedures provide, Page 83, as follows:

 
"PUPILS - CONDUCT, OFFENSES, AND PUNISHMENTS
 
"ATTIRE
 
Principals will determine when attire of students is in good taste.
 
"CONDUCT
 
Children may be held responsible for their conduct to and from school if it affects school organization, school morale, or destruction of public or private property."

 In this connection, Dr. White said that attire had to do with the appearance of the child. With reference to duties and responsibilities of the Principal and Assistant Principal, (page 164), it is provided that the Principal is the Chief Administrator in his building and, as such, he is fully responsible for all areas of operation, either through personal action or through assignment to personnel in the building. Dr. White testified that this book is partially the Principal's guide and that there must be added common sense, tact, firmness and policy guidance by the Superintendent of Schools or from an authorized staff member; that results of the program in his building come to him for credit or discredit; and that the Principal's areas of responsibility are in administration, organization, operation, instruction, curriculum, supervision, personnel, pupil management, budget, parent relations, public information, and leadership. Dr. White further testified that the matter of length of a boy's hair was within the authority of the Principal and that in this case he felt that the authority of the Principal to run his school had been called into question. Dr. White further said that through a telephone call he advised one of Plaintiffs' attorneys that he, as Superintendent of the schools, would stand behind the Principal. It appears further from the testimony that there was a second confrontation with Mr. Lanham on the following day, September 8. Prior to this incident, the booking agent, Alexander, affectionately called "Alexander, the Great" by the boys, had notified three television stations and about half-a-dozen radio stations of the situation at the school and suggesting the presence of these news media at the school on the coming day. The radio and television reporters responded and following this conference with Mr. Lanham, the group conducted interviews with and were photographed by these news representatives. The story was subsequently reported on all television channels complete with films and interviews, in both of the local newspapers and received nationwide attention through the wire services.

 
"Went to school, got kicked out,
 
Said it was too long, now we're going ...

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