For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Will Matthews, ACLU National, (212) 549-2582 or 2666;
Dotty Griffith, ACLU of Texas, (512) 478-7300 ext. 106;

ACLU to Argue FRIDAY for Kindergartener's Right to Religious Expression Before Appeals Court

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will hear arguments Friday,
December 4, in an appeal of a federal judge's ruling that the
Needville, Texas Independent School District (NISD) violated the U.S.
Constitution and Texas state law by punishing an American Indian
kindergarten student for wearing his long hair in braids as an
expression of his heritage and religious faith.

U.S. District Court Judge Keith P.
Ellison in January granted a request by the American Civil Liberties
Union and the ACLU of Texas that the boy, known in court proceedings by
his initials, A.A., be allowed to wear his hair at school in two long
braids in observance of his religious heritage. School officials, who
had initially placed the student in in-school suspension for violating
the school district's dress code requiring boys to have short hair,
appealed the ruling. 

The ACLU and ACLU of Texas sued the
NISD in October 2008 after school officials refused to exempt the boy
from its dress code requirements and instead mandated that he stuff his
long hair down the back of his shirt while at school - a requirement
that would cause A.A. shame, embarrassment and physical discomfort.

ACLU arguments defending a Houston federal judge's ruling that stopped
a Texas school district from punishing a five-year-old student for
wearing his long hair in braids as an expression of his American Indian
heritage and beliefs.

ACLU of Texas Legal Director Lisa Graybill and ACLU of Texas staff
attorney Fleming Terrell will argue before a judicial panel of the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

WHEN: Friday, December 4, 2009 at 9 a.m. CST

WHERE: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
              En Banc Courtroom
              600 South Maestri Place
              New Orleans, LA 70130


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