Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Principal Removes Child for Hair Color

Remember a little over a month ago, during the illegal immigrant demonstrations in PWC, when the Principal at one elementary school threw out two children for wearing T-shirts? As I said a month ago in the post Why do we ban T-shirts from school?, Principals have the right to do what they think is right for the school, because they are responsible for the consequences of inaction.

But I objected to the Principal's judgment, thinking that he overreacted to the t-shirts, which simply expressed the children's pride in their heritage.

Well now, a student was removed from a PWC middle school for having her hair dyed. There is a rule about "distraction", and this school has written their guidelines to include "excessively colored hair".

This girl shows up at school with some rather stunning fuschia highlights. And the Principal took one look and sent her to the office to wait for her parents, much like the children in last month's story.

But in this case, the parents came quickly, and took the girl home without complaint. Three hours later, she was back in school. The parents thought the hair color was great. The office workers all complemented the girl on her hair.

But there is no lawsuit. There will be no front-page news story in the paper tomorrow. The ACLU won't be coming around to blackmail the school system.

Because this child's parents believe in the rule of law, and also believe that you can't get worked up over every petty grievance. So while they disagreed strongly with the decision of the Principal, they took tims off from work to make the hair acceptable to the powers-that-be, who have the right in our school system to be completely wrong about something like hair color.

The girl was a real trooper throughout. It's obviously hard to do something you're proud of, something that you think makes you look more attractive, and expresses your feelings, only to have an authority figure dismiss your efforts as unacceptable. To have to sit in the office, to go through three extra hair treatments, to miss your favorite classes simply because your hair is "different", these are all hard lessons for a youngster to learn.

The child barely got back into school -- permanent coloring really is permanent, and purple is not an easy color to overshadow. But, seeing the effort was made to comply, a vice-principal decided to let it pass, with the warning that if the Principal saw it he might throw her out again.

That night the child went to a professional. The hair is still colored, but now it is what the industry calls a "natural" color. There doesn't appear to be anything in the rules about "natural" vs. "unnatural" hair color, but everybody knows that the natural colors are "ok", while it's the "unnatural" colors that will get you in trouble.

My opinion? Once the permanent color was applied, that's the "natural color" of that hair. To be denied access to school simply because you put something in your hair and don't want to cut it all off, well that seems a bit excessive.

The school also prohibits head coverings. So unless the girl converts to Islam, she can't just put a bandanna on her head (apparently something to do with gangs). It wasn't like the t-shirt incident where the shirts could have been turned inside out, or new shirts could have been brought.

I am torn on this one. It's not a "freedom of speech" issue, more a "freedom of expression" issue. I suppose having wild hair might cause people to ask you about your hair instead of hurrying to class. Or maybe other students would stare at you instead of listening to the teacher?

I guess I don't understand what the real problem is -- unless it's gang colors. But the thugs have won a victory if they can supress the freedom of all students based on fear.

You may here another take on this story from the often-missing conservative number two. There may even be a picture.

6 comments:

Not Larry Sabato said...

I'm very interested in hearing more.

Waldo Jaquith said...

The ACLU won't be coming around to blackmail the school system.

In cases like this, ACLU representation doesn't usually seek compensation, merely readmission to school.

Charles said...

In the case of the t-shirts, the Potomac News reported "Occoquan has yet to respond to the ACLU's request for an apology and a statement affirming the protection of students' free speech."

The parents seemed to be looking for something more: "The parents say it is too late for an apology."

The term "blackmail" had a connotation I didn't mean to convey -- I was thinking of the general act forcing the school to give in to some demand in order to avoid a costly legal battle.

Craig said...

Frankly these types of rules on things like the color of hair a child is allowed to have in school are beyond asinine. Kids do silly things all the time and they create minor distractions for about 30 seconds until the next kid does something to distract their friends. I don't know if I consider having a hot pink hair a first amendment issue but it certainly isn't an area that school administrators should be regulating.

Anyway, you are a lot more understanding than I would have been. If I ever get dragged down my daughter's school for her hair color...

Benjamin said...

I really don't buy the whole "distraction" basis for this rule. If schools are supposed to be preparing our children for life after school, then should they teach them that it's expected that they will be distracted by something like hair color?

The rule supports itself, by making a bigger deal of of the issue than it needs to be.

My daughter is for and already she has seen more examples of "unnatural" colored hair than I can keep track of. By the time she is in school, I am certain she won't look twice at other students with different hair colors

Anonymous said...

I really don't buy the whole "distraction" basis for this rule. If schools are supposed to be preparing our children for life after school, then should they teach them that it's expected that they will be distracted by something like hair color?

The rule supports itself, by making a bigger deal of of the issue than it needs to be.

My daughter is for and already she has seen more examples of "unnatural" colored hair than I can keep track of. By the time she is in school, I am certain she won't look twice at other students with different hair colors