A high school valedictorian was reportedly not allowed to participate in graduation because of his beard.
Andrew Jones of Amite, Louisiana, had a perfect academic record, was deemed Student of the Year, and was a star athlete at Amite High School, WVUE reports.
"He's got a child, he's got a baby and he's still managed those grades," Sabrina Davis, Jones' aunt, told the news station.
However, when Jones headed to the Southeastern Louisiana University assembly center on May 18 to walk as valedictorian of his class, school officials forbade him from participating in the ceremony.
"Eventually they took my gown," Jones told WWL-TV, "They told me they had to take my gown from me."
The school district’s policy forbids facial hair on male students. According to Tangipahoa Schools Superintendent Mark Kolwe, Jones and his family were told about the policy three times, including the night of the ceremony.
Jones said he chose not to completely shave off his beard because the facial hair policy had never been enforced before, noting that other classes were allowed to wear beards during graduation.
"It don't make sense, every day of school I went with it, even more, I did shave," Jones said, "I had like sides and everything, but I shaved that for graduation."
"What was the real issue that he couldn't walk with his class?" Davis said to WWL-TV. "He was top of his class, you know, that moment was the most important moment of his life."
The local chapter of the NAACP are investigating the situation.
"His robe and cap were taken so he could not march, and that's just wrong," Patricia Morris, president of the Tangipahoa parish NAACP chapter, told WVUE.
Jones said he's speaking out about his experience so other families can avoid a similar experience.
"I feel they should have let me march," Jones said. "The hair on my face has nothing to do with school. I wasn't distracting anybody."
Jones has received an academic scholarship and an athletic scholarship to Southeastern Louisiana University. He will also play on the football team and hopes to pursue professional sports in some capacity after college.
"For a young man that talented, and very academic, to hold a 4.0 and still manage to be a father to his child, the sky's the limit to me," Davis told WWL-TV.