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Ava DuVernay Looks Into Viral Video of Teen Wrestler Forced to Cut Dreadlocks

”I want to explore the school officials on-site, mainly the coaches, that allowed this to happen to a minor,“ the filmmaker writes

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay is trying to get to the bottom of a viral video circulating the web of a teenage student who was reportedly told to cut his dreadlocks before a wrestling match.

On Friday morning, DuVernay tweeted at Dr. Lamont Repollet, the New Jersey commissioner of education, asking that he please return her calls and the “dozen messages” she left for school administrators as she tried to identify and investigate the video.

“Does anyone know the full name of Andrew Johnson’s school,” DuVernay tweeted Friday. “Yes, to referee pressure. Absolutely. But I want to explore the school officials on-site, mainly the coaches, that allowed this to happen to a minor.”

And on Saturday morning, DuVernay shared a report from “Today” along with a message about why her own dreadlocks are so important to her and why the video affected her so strongly.

“I don’t just wear locs. They are a part of me. A gift to me. They mean something to me. So to watch this young man’s ordeal, wrecked me,” DuVernay said. “The criminalization of what grows from him. The theft of what was his. Two hours of calls w/ officials yesterday. Two hours of heartache.”

On Thursday, SNJ Today shared a video that has since gone viral in which Buena Regional High School student and wrestler Andrew Johnson was reportedly told by a white referee — who reporter Shaun King identified as Alan Maloney — that his dreadlocks were too long and violated the rules of the wrestling match. Johnson was not allowed to cover up his hair and was told to either cut his hair on the spot or forfeit the match. Johnson chose to cut his hair and wrestle. He went on to win the match.

The video has since sparked outcry on social media. On Facebook via Today, Johnson’s mother wrote, “Hardest thing I’ve ever seen…that was brutal emotionally and physically, but he is good now.”

Larry White, the executive director of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, or NJSIAA, recommended in a statement issued Friday that the “referee in question not be assigned to any event until this matter has been reviewed more thoroughly in order to avoid potential distractions for the competing wrestlers.”

Superintendent David C. Cappuccio Jr. also issued a statement Friday about the dreadlocks incident, saying that the issue was being investigated and that the assigned referee would no longer be permitted to officiate any events involving Buena Regional High School students.

The Courier Post also identified the referee Maloney as the same individual who had previously called another official the N-word back in 2016.

See DuVernay’s tweets below: