Press Release

Texas brothers ask court to end public school discrimination Public school bans schoolboys from sports and clubs unless they cut their sacred braids

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

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WASHINGTON – A Catholic family in Texas asked a federal court Monday to allow their boys to join sports and other after-school activities while keeping a strand of their hair uncut and braided as a sign of their faith. In Gonzales v. Mathis Independent School District, the court will decide if the Mathis Independent School District can discriminate against brothers Cesar and Diego Gonzales because of a religious promise they have kept since infancy.

For two years, the Gonzales brothers have been barred from all University Interscholastic Leave (UIL) interschool competition in sports and clubs at Mathis Middle School, including playing football and joining the art and computer programing clubs. The family is now asking a Texas federal court to allow the brothers to keep their religious promise to God while participating in their school’s extracurricular activities as freshmen at Mathis High School.

“This school district’s senseless religious discrimination has gone on long enough, and we fully expect the court to allow the Gonzales brothers to participate in the after-school activities they love,” said Montse Alvarado, VP and executive director of Becket. “Cesar and Diego should have a chance to play and learn alongside their friends and classmates without having to give up a central part of their religious identity.”

Since birth, Cesar and Diego Gonzales have kept a small strand of hair uncut and braided as a sacred religious promise to God. Although their 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. However, when they entered seventh grade in the fall of 2017, Cesar and Diego were surprised to find out that their religious practice would no longer be accommodated and were suddenly banned from all UIL activities.

“In a diverse society like ours there is no reason for young students to be bullied and excluded for practicing their faith,” said Alvarado. “The law does not tolerate this kind of blatant suppression of students’ religious expression.”

On July 15, 2019, Becket sent a letter urging the school district to settle the case and give the boys a religious exemption. The school district refused. Now, the federal court will decide whether the boys will be allowed to participate in extracurriculars this school year. 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.