(CBSDFW.COM) – Texas teenager DeAndre Arnold, who has received a wide range of support after he was told he couldn’t walk at graduation unless he cut his dreadlocks, is now heading to the Oscars as a special guest of the team behind the animated short film “Hair Love.”
Director Matthew A. Cherry and producers Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union surprised Arnold with the invite through video messages from each of them.
“Hair Love” follows a black father who is styling his young daughter’s hair for the first time. It’s nominated for Best Animated Short Film at the 92nd Academy Awards.
“We’ve all been so inspired by your story and this is the very least we can do to thank you for standing up for yourself and for your right to wear your natural hair at school,” Cherry told Arnold in a video.
Arnold, a senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu (about 32 miles east of Houston), has grabbed national headlines for his refusal to shorten his dreadlocks due to the district’s dress code policy. He has been told by district officials that he would not be able to walk at graduation unless he complied with the policy.
The district’s policy allows dreadlocks and long hair for male students, but it cannot go below the eyebrows or ear lobes and has to be above the top of a t-shirt collar. Arnold’s dreadlocks go below his shoulder.
Supporters of Arnold claim the policy is discriminatory and that it shouldn’t dictate whether or not he should be able to walk at graduation.
District officials continue to stand by their policy, and Arnold remains away from the school.
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) January 31, 2020
Arnold’s story has reached many throughout the nation, including celebrities like Alicia Keys and professional athletes like Houston Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
Earlier this week, the 18-year-old appeared on “The Ellen Show,” where Keys and Ellen DeGeneres surprised him with a $20,000 scholarship.
Now, Arnold is heading to the Oscars with his mother, Sandy.
“We love the way that you carry yourself and we wanted to do something special for you,” Wade said in his message.
Arnold said he’s appreciative of all the support he’s received and for the invitation.
“It’s hard to take in,” Arnold told CBS This Morning. “I’ve got excitement and then it’s just like, ‘Is this really happening? Am I in a dream?’ … it blows my mind that people that have so much voice, they’re on my side and they’re with me. I love that. I appreciate that. I really do.”
Cherry said a “full wardrobe and glam” will be provided for Arnold and his mother for a night at the Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 9.