Ellen DeGeneres has taken up the cause of a black Texas high school student who was told he won't be allowed to return to school or attend his graduation ceremony unless he cuts his dreadlocks — and surprised him with a $20,000 scholarship.
DeAndre Arnold, a senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, appeared in an episode of "The Ellen Show" that aired Wednesday.
At the start of the segment, DeGeneres told Arnold, "I'm sure this is not easy or comfortable for you," referring to his appearance on television. "But I want you to just relax and know that I'm here for you."
"That's why you're here," she continued. "Because I don't understand this."
Arnold has said he was suspended over the length of his dreadlocks and told by his principal that he needed to cut his hair to return to school.
"You get good grades," DeGeneres said. "You've never been in trouble, ever. This is the first time anything has come up. And now, you haven't been in school for weeks because of this situation."
Arnold has worn dreadlocks for years and has said he always followed the dress code because he kept his hair off his shoulders, above his earlobes and out of his eyes, by tying up his dreadlocks. He told DeGeneres he was informed he was in violation of the dress code after the Christmas break.
"Every day I would go to school, I would be in dress code," he told DeGeneres. "But the thing with them is, if it was let down, I would be out of dress code."
DeGeneres asked if there were girls in his school with long hair, to which he responded in the affirmative and said: "There's plenty of girls with long hair at my school. Like, if girls can have long hair, why can't I have long hair?"
DeGeneres said that was the point she was trying to make.
"I just personally think you should be able to wear your hair however you want, especially if there's girls with long hair," she said. "What's the difference if girls have long hair and if guys have long hair?"