Black Teen Who Says School Opposed Dreadlocks Invited to Oscars by Dwyane Wade, Gabrielle Union
Hair Love creator Matthew A. Cherry also invited the teen to the big show, where his film is nominated for Best Animated Short Film
The couple, who co-produced Academy Award-nominated short film Hair Love, along with the film’s creator Matthew A. Cherry, invited Texas teen DeAndre Arnold to join them at the star-studded event on Sunday, Feb. 9 after the student claimed his high school told him to cut his dreadlocks or he couldn’t walk at graduation.
In a video shared via Twitter on Friday, Union, Wade, and Cherry extended the exclusive invitation to Arnold and his mother, explaining that they would cover all travel and hotel costs, as well as “provide full wardrobe and glam for the big night,” courtesy of Dove.
Union, 47, said that the trio knew they had to get involved after hearing about Arnold’s story, which closely mirrored the inspirational one about a father and daughter in Hair Love.
“You just wanting to wear your hair the way you want at school, and all the scrutiny you faced, and how unwavering you have been in standing up for yourself, we also knew we had to get involved,” she explained.
“We’re big fans. We love the way that you carry yourself and we wanted to do something special for you,” Wade, 38, chimed in. “You and your mother Sandy are the official guests of the Oscar-nominated team behind Hair Love at the 2020 Academy Awards this Sunday. So get ready, you’re going to the Oscars.”
Cherry, 38, said, “We’ve all been so inspired by your story and this is the very least we can do to thank you for standing up for yourself and for your right to wear your natural hair at school.”
On his Twitter, Cherry added that he hopes by bringing Arnold to the Oscars “that we are able to help give him the platform that him & his story deserves.”
The Hair Love creator also called on state legislatures to pass the Crown Act, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” and prohibits discrimination based on hairstyle and hair texture. (The law has already been passed in California, New York, and New Jersey, according to its website.)
“We’re so proud & cannot wait to meet him,” Cherry wrote. “The Crown Act needs to be passed in all 50 states & can’t think of a better example of why.”
After learning of the exciting news, Arnold was in disbelief.
“It’s crazy. I never thought that people like D. Wade and Gabrielle Union would be on my side,” he told CBS This Morning. “The film is about hair love and me and my hair kinda grew up together in a way. It’s like we’re best friends.”
“It really just means so much that we get an invite like this,” Arnold added. “It means the world to us.”
Arnold has since changed high schools, according to Cherry.
The student said his hair had always met the school district’s policies until recently, when he received an in-school suspension after he refused to cut it.
His mother Sandy told KPRC that after Christmas break and three months before graduation, the school district changed the dress code policy. They allegedly later told Arnold that he is not allowed back in school and cannot walk in his upcoming graduation until his dreadlocks are cut.
Sandy explained to CBS This Morning that she believes the lack of diversity in the district is the issue.
“There is no people of color on the school board. I get it that they don’t understand his hair,” she said.
She also told KPRC that she attempted to reach out to board members and the superintendent to come to a conclusion together, but she claims she never received a response.
Barbers Hill School District did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment but on its website, seemingly addressed the controversy.
“Over the past several weeks our outstanding school district has been the subject of media coverage that has portrayed the district in a manner we know to be untrue. The founders of this district had high standards set by this community, and for 90 years, BHISD has taken great pride in maintaining these high standards,” the district wrote.
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“Every summer we meet as a Team of 8 to review standing goals and to add new goals that we believe are important to our district. There are a few district goals that have been in place for decades and they include: student safety, academics, finance, community involvement, and dress code. We are truly blessed to live in a community where these things are still important in our schools,” they went on.
“We do not claim to be perfect in any of these areas, but we do strive to deliver excellence in all of them as well as meet our community’s expectation. One of the things that sets us apart from other districts is maintaining our high standards. It is an absolute honor to represent this community and the best school district in the state, and we appreciate the support from each and every one of you,” the district finished.
This isn’t the first time that Arnold has been met with support from the Hollywood community since sharing his story.
“He deserves to graduate, to walk with all the other kids,” DeGeneres said.
Keys, 39, added, “I’m super proud of you for standing up for what you know is right. I know the school needs to do the right thing.”