Wife of AU coach sues high school on son's behalf

Blaise Taylor and his mother, Evi Taylor.
Blaise Taylor and his mother, Evi Taylor.

Posted by Samuel King - bio | email

AUBURN, AL (WSFA) - The son of Auburn assistant football coach Trooper Taylor wants to play junior varsity basketball at Auburn High School. Coach Frank Tolbert won't let Blaise Taylor play because he has his hair braided.  On Friday, Taylor's mother filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Blaise Taylor claiming the coach and the school system discriminated against him because of his hairstyle.

"If the rule made sense to me, I could see where we would follow the rule, but this rule is asking him to alter his physical appearance and change part of him," said Taylor's Mother, Evi Taylor.    "And his braids are part of his ethnic identity."

Blaise Taylor said some of his teammates have long hair and he doesn't think it is fair that he can't play.

"I had put in all this hard work and dedication with all of my teammates," Taylor said.  "And now to have to look all of my teammates in the eye, and tell them that I'm not going to be able to play after all of the hard work we put in was really tough and upsetting."

Evi Taylor said the family tried to come to some sort of agreement with school administrators, but could not.

In a letter sent to Taylor's attorney, school officials maintained that Tolbert's 30 year old policy about grooming and hairstyles would be upheld.

School board attorney Rick Davidson wrote in part:  "It has always been Coach Tolbert's strong belief that teaching young men that the identity of the team and the program takes precedence over all individuals.  To that end, Coach Tolbert has tried to teach young men that the way they present themselves has a major impact on how other people perceive them."

The Taylors felt time was running out on the season.  So they filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the school board and school administrators.

"The case law and the U.S. Constitution - the First and 14th amendment gives us two solid causes of action," said Julian McPhillips, the family's attorney.

Blaise Taylor hopes he can get back on the court soon - with his braids intact.

"I think I could be really successful.  It doesn't matter what type of hairstyle I have."

The family is not seeking any monetary damages in the case; they just want the rule changed.  Attorneys have filed an injunction seeking to get Taylor back on the court this season.  He has already missed four games.

Evi Taylor says she's fighting not only for her son, but other would-be basketball players who have been affected by the policy.  The lawsuit was filed very late this afternoon, and we have not heard back from the attorney representing the school board.

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