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Indian Legal Clinic files amicus brief in 5th Circuit

September 11, 2009

The Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law Indian Legal Clinic and Quarles & Brady have filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas in A.A. v. Needville School District in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The brief was prepared by Indian Legal Clinic Student-Attorney Daniel Lewis, Quarles & Brady attorney Katea Ravega, and Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, Director of the Clinic.

In the case, the Needville School District placed a kindergarten boy, a member of the Lipan Apache Tribe, on in-school suspension for wearing his hair in braids. School policy states that a boy's hair "shall not cover any part of the ear or touch the top of the standard collar in the back."

The student believes "that his long hair is not only an expression of his ancestry and heritage, but also a sacred symbol of his life and experience in this world."

The Southern District of Texas issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the school district from enforcing its policy, saying it violated the student's constitutional rights of freedom of expression and religion. The school district appealed the ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The amicus brief filed by the Clinic addresses the Lipan Apache tradition of wearing hair long for both expression of identity and religious purposes and requested the court affirm the lower court's decision.

Judy Nichols,
(480) 727-7895
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law