Texas family sues school, claiming staff laughed while coloring student's head with marker

Staffers told Juelz, 13, that his haircut violated the school's dress code.

A Texas family filed a federal lawsuit against their son's school district on Sunday, accusing it of discriminating against the boy by drawing on his scalp with a permanent marker in an effort to bring his haircut up to code.

The lawsuit, which names the Pearland Independent School District and three staff members as defendants, claims school officials at Berry Miller Junior High in Pearland, Texas, laughed as they used a black Sharpie to fill in the line designs in seventh grader Juelz Trice's hair without his consent.

In April, a staffer allegedly told Juelz, 13, that his haircut, which the suit described as a "common African American 'fade' haircut with innocuous line design," violated the school's dress code and sent him to the discipline clerk’s office.

That's when he was allegedly told that he would be put in school suspension or the line design in his haircut would be immediately filled in with marker, according to the civil claim. The lawsuit said neither the principal nor the discipline clerk contacted the boy's parents before taking action.

"The Berry Miler Junior High School officials laughed as they took many minutes to color the 13 year-old Juelz's scalp which then took many days of scrubbing to come off. Juelz was immensely humiliated and shamed," Randall Kallinen, the family's attorney, said in a statement. "The school officials did not phone Juelz Trice's parents or hold any hearing as required by law. Had they been phoned, Juelz's parents would have shortened Juelz's hair to get rid of the line design and he would have been back at school the same morning."

Pearland ISD amended their dress code hairstyle policy in the wake of the incident, but the boy's parents said that isn't enough and accused the school of racial discrimination, according to the lawsuit. After the incident, the involved staff did not receive training on Constitutional law regarding students, the Pearland dress code or racial sensitivity, the suit alleged.

"When it first happened, I was very upset because I didn't find out until after he got off the bus and he got into the car and said, 'Look what they did to my head,'" Juelz's mother, Angela Washington, told ABC's Houston station KTRK.

Juelz father, Dante Trice, said the school could have put him at medical risk by putting chemicals on open pores.

"It was wide open because he had just got his hair cut the day before, so it was wide open," said Dante Trice told KTRK. "I'm totally disappointed. Totally disappointed."

"They were very apologetic, but it still happened. … You know, for an adult, no one should think that's the correct way to handle a situation," the boy's mother added.

Pearland ISD said, outside of media reports, it had not been notified about the lawsuit as of Monday evening.

It previously said it was "extremely disappointed" with how the situation was handled and had placed the school's campus administrator on administrative leave.

"A campus administrator mishandled disciplinary action by giving the student options including notifying his mother, disciplinary consequences or filling in the shape of the hair carving with a marker," a spokesperson said in April. "This latter practice is not condoned by the district and does not align with appropriate measures for dress code violations."

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount in compensatory damages.

ABC News' Scottye Kennedy contributed to this report.

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