State Civil Rights Division to look into HS wrestler forced to cut dreadlocks

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BUENA -

The New Jersey Civil Rights Division of the state attorney general’s office will be looking into a situation where a high school wrestler was forced to cut off his dreadlocks in order to compete.

The Buena Regional School Board also held an emergency meeting Wednesday night to discuss the situation involving Buena Regional High School student Andrew Johnson who had to cut his hair before a wrestling match on Dec. 19.

“We have viewed the video footage that has gone viral and are deeply troubled by the embarrassment and humiliation that our young student athlete endured,” Superintendent David Cappuccio, Jr. said during the meeting.

Johnson, who is black, had a cover over his hair, but referee Alan Maloney, who is white, said that wouldn't do. Johnson won Wednesday's match but appeared visibly distraught after having his hair cut off by an official.

RELATED: Wrestler's attorney suggests haircut due to ref's tardiness 
RELATED: ‘Deeply disturbed’: Gov. Murphy responds after high school wrestler told to cut dreadlocks 

Wrestling rules state that an athlete with long hair has to braid it or hide it beneath a hair cover. Johnson’s family says that he hasn’t had any issues with his hair before.

An attorney for the family says that Maloney didn't attend the weigh-in that day. They also say that when Maloney evaluated the teen before the match, he didn't raise any issues with the length of his hair or the need to wear a head covering.

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athlete Association is also conducting an investigation into the incident.

Superintendent Cappuccio says that the district’s athletic teams will not complete in any sporting events officiated by Maloney from this point forward.

“We are sensitive to the public's concern for our student athlete as well as all of our students. And we share the common belief that no child should ever be faced with such a situation,” Cappuccio said.

The Buena Regional High School wrestling team is scheduled to have a meet Thursday at Hunterdon Central Regional High School. The Johnson family’s attorney says that Andrew Johnson will not be attending.

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