Press Release

Court tells Texas school to stop bullying boys for their faith School district must let boys participate in extracurriculars while keeping sacred braids

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

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WASHINGTON – A Texas family won a major victory today in their quest to let their boys join extracurricular sports and clubs while keeping a strand of hair uncut and braided as a sign of faith. In Gonzales v. Mathis Independent School District, brothers Cesar and Diego Gonzales have been barred for the past two years from playing on their school’s football team or participating in academic clubs because of a religious promise they have kept since birth. Today’s federal court decision grants the family’s request for a religious accommodation allowing participation in extracurriculars while the case proceeds.

Since 2017, the Gonzales brothers have been barred from all University Interscholastic League (UIL) interschool competition in sports and clubs at Mathis Middle School, including playing football and joining the art and computer programing clubs. Last month, the Gonzales family urged a Texas federal court to put an end to the school district’s religious discrimination and allow the brothers to keep their lifelong promise to God.

“After two years of needless bullying of students of faith, it’s now clear that the school district is breaking the law,” said Montserrat Alvarado, vice president and executive director at Becket. “Mathis Independent School District should stop this foolish fight and do the right thing.”

Cesar and Diego Gonzales leave a small part of their hair uncut and braided, a religious promise known as a promesa they have kept since infancy. Although the school’s dress code forbids male students from having hair past the collar, the school district granted an exemption to the boys from kindergarten through sixth grade, and they participated in school activities with no problem. But when they entered seventh grade in 2017 at Mathis Middle School, Cesar and Diego Gonzales were told that their religious practice would no longer be accommodated. They are now freshmen at Mathis High School.

“It is unacceptable to keep children from doing what they love because of their religious beliefs,” said Alvarado. “Mathis ISD should follow the law and respect these students’ religious beliefs.”

The court invited the parties to submit additional evidence and briefing on September 10 and said that it will issue a more “detailed order” soon. The Gonzales family is represented by Texas attorney Frank Gonzales and Jamie Aycock, Kenneth Young, and Kelsee Foote of the international law firm Kirkland & Ellis.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.