Calvary Baptist student Dalon Thorn

Dalon Thorn, a 7th grade student at Calvary Baptist School in Slidell, was met with questions about being a gangster by the school's principal when he wore a braided hairstyle in May 2023.

Black people have all kinds of style, particularly hairstyles.

Bald heads. Hair fried, dyed, laid to the side. Au naturel. Afros — yes, even today — of various lengths, including some that blow in the wind like the one I wore decades ago. A few flat tops. Dreadlocks.

And braids — French braids, box braids, fishtail braids. The most commonly recognized braids are cornrows. They look like their name — rows of corn/hair. 

Some lay on the scalp. Some are long.

This is not new. Black men and women have worn braids for centuries — as Damon Thorn explained to Calvary Baptist School Principal Angelyn Mesman during an unscheduled conversation after Mesman suggested that Thorn's son might have gangster tendencies now that he's wearing braids.

Rising eighth grader Dalon Thorn had a natural haircut until recently. His mom, Ashely Thorn, braided his hair on a recent Sunday, and he wore them to Calvary Baptist School the next day.

That's when the twisted, hot mess started.

According to a recording of the conversation, Mesman asked young Thorn if his hairstyle meant he was a gangster and no longer leading a Christ-like life. 

His parents were shocked. 

The principal and Damon and Ashely Thorn describe Dalon as a kind, respectful kid. Why would braids change that?

All schools should have reasonable dress codes. Faculty, parents and students may disagree with some rules, but all should know what's covered and abide accordingly — or choose another school. Private schools have wide latitude with such matters.

Calvary Baptist has a dress code. For boys, it says "An acceptable well-groomed haircut is required of all male students. Hair will not reach shoulder length nor will bangs be long enough to cover eyes. Rat-tail and Mohawk-type haircuts are not acceptable. Dreadlocks and afros over 3" are not acceptable. Man buns and sculpting are not acceptable. Colored hair, feathers and extreme styles are not allowed."

I'm sure these are the types of things Mesman meant when she referenced "the look that goes with" the hairstyle on the recording I heard. She referenced rappers pushing drugs and touting things that aren't Christ-like. "I just wanted to see his heart," she said.

There are pastors who preach against such hairstyles, saying they are ungodly and not scriptural. So much for the "come as you are" mantras some preach.

My reading of the Bible says we shouldn't adorn ourselves with evil in mind. We should wear our hair, makeup and jewelry in manners that would be pleasing to God. The Bible clearly states that we shouldn't follow the lead of flirtatious and seductive men and women. I doubt God cares about which hairstyle we wear, as long as our hearts are in the right place.

Christians, Jews, Muslims and others know about Samson, who lived in the 11th century before Christ. A reminder from Judges 16:19: “After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him.” 

For the record, I have no hair atop my head and my wife has dreads all the way down her back. Some strands reach her knees. Her hair would violate Calvary's dress code. I assure you she's no gangster. She's turned off by gangsta rap. She wouldn't recognize the gangsta life. Nor would Dalon.

My wife is a Christian. I'm sure Dalon is, too.

There's nothing wrong with following Jesus and doing all you can to live up to faith expectations. Sometimes we succeed. Often times we fall short. Sometimes we say things we want to take back. In ignorance, sometimes we say things that are offensive.

I don't know the Thorns or Mesman. I believe they are good people. I'm sure this was a case of ignorance for Mesman, who delivered a non-apology — "I'm so sorry if you were offended."

Ashely Thorn wants to see Mesman fired. She doesn't believe Mesman should lead children in any school. She sees this incident as one that's indicative of ongoing but unacceptable attitudes and behavior.

St. Tammany Parish reporter Joni Hess first reported this story last week. She attempted to reach Mesman and Calvary Baptist Church Pastor John Brown several times. I tried to reach them Tuesday without success.

I don't know if Mesman should lose her job. I do know that Mesman, the school, the church and the pastor owe Dalon and his family a sincere apology.

And henceforth, we all should remember Jesus' words from the Sermon on the Mount: “Judge not, that ye be not judged."

Email Will Sutton at, or follow him on Twitter, @willsutton.