A Hairy Issue - I thought we were beyond this.
I thought this sort of thing was out of the dark ages of modern western civilization. A 5-year-old kindergarten student was apparently punished for his family's religious beliefs¹. In Needville Texas the Needville Independent School District (NISD) have forced an American Indian kindergarten student into "isolated In-School Suspension"¹. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas is saying it is for the student practising his family's religious beliefs and heritage -- and indeed it is -- but it centres around the school dress code and the young boy wanting to keep the long hair that is a part of his American Indian Heritage.
(image to right from American Civil Liberties Union of Texas)
The boy's -- AA² -- Father is of American Indian heritage and follows American Indian religious beliefs and he and his son belive that one's hair should only be cut for "life-changing-occasions, such as the death of a loved one."¹ believing that hair is a sacred symbol of their own lives. The boy's hair has never been cut.
The School District has a dress code which requires boys to have short hair and their response to a successful appeal that the NISD can not force the boy to cut his hair is that he keep it in a single tight braid tucked out of sight down the back of his shirt at all times. He must also re-prove his religious sincerity to NISD officials every school year.
The parents requested exemption from that area of the dress code over 8 months before school and it wasn't until a week before school that it was granted after appealing the initial denial.
I gather that "Independant School District" does not mean the school is a private one or religious one but the normal public school for the area. I might understand that a school that is a religious institution might have some restrictions, but this seems out of place in our day-and-age.
Perhaps it is because I come from a generation when hair length was at the heart of things. When I was in kindergarten many of the boys had brush cuts and others had different short styles. But it was also the time when the Beatles became popular and long hair was made famous or infamous by the "Hippies". Gradually long hair became more and more acceptable and by the time I reached Grade 7 and Junior High School they had changed dress codes to allow for much that wasn't allowed the year before. But this was 1971. That was the first year that jeans were allowed in our school -- of course not any jeans with "rivets". Girls still were not allowed to wear pants in school which was awkward in -30º - -40ºF weather with girls changing in the halls.
But boys by the time I reached grade 12 sometimes had hair that was a foot or more long! That was in 1975-76 when I graduated. I guess there weren't the problems with gangs and such... I have heard that they are trying to combat hairstyle as a distraction in the school system.
(image to left of 6-year-old with Mohawk from USATODAY.com)
Distraction at least is what they are claiming in the case of a boy in Parma, Ohio shown here. The Principal of the school, "Linda Geyer" says that the boy's hairdo was "disrupting the educational program."³There is a school uniform at that school and the boy wears it, but they have given him a third infraction of the school dress code and suspended him from his kindergarten class.
In this case it is a matter of freedom of expression rather than religious freedom, but for some I think they would be very similar. In USATODAY,com there is an article pointing out yet anothr case of a 7-year-old sporting a "Mohawk" -- "a 3-inch spike of hair running down the middle of his scalp."⁴
In another article -- again from USATODAY.com⁵ -- where they describe coveralls for students breaking the dress code to wear, they have a link to the Dress Code for "Gonzales Independent School District"⁶.
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
GONZALES DRESS CODE
The District’s dress code is established to teach grooming and hygiene, prevent disruption, and minimize safety hazards. The district prohibits pictures, emblems, or writings on clothing that are lewd, offensive, vulgar, obscene, that advertise tobacco products, alcoholic beverages of any kind, drugs, or any other substance prohibited under school policy. It prohibits any dress or grooming that, in the principal’s judgment, may reasonably be expected to interfere with normal school operations. The dress code applies anytime a student is on campus during a normal school day and anytime a student is involved in an event or extra-curricular activity that represents Gonzales ISD. Co-Curricular and extra-curricular uniforms will be specified by the sponsors of organizations and approved to meet GISD Standard of Excellency by the campus Principal. Violations of the dress code; see student code of conduct for consequences. Students and parents may determine a student’s personal dress and grooming standards, provided that they comply with the following:
1. No student on school property or at any school activity shall wear, possess, use, distribute, display or sell any clothing, jewelry, emblem, badge, symbols, sign or other things, which are evidence of membership or affiliation in any gang.
2. Hair must be neat and clean. Boys’ hair must not extend below the bottom of the collar of a dress shirt, below the bottom of the ear, or over the eyes.
3. Any hairstyle, which by its appearance causes a disruption of any kind, as determined by a school administrator, is unacceptable.
4. Males must be clean-shaven if facial hair is noticeable. Sideburns cannot extend below the bottom of the ear.
5. Shorts, skorts, dresses, and skirts should be to the knee and appropriate for the school setting. Decency when sitting shall be a prime factor in determining appropriateness for the school setting.
6. Miniskirts, leggins, tight shorts, tights, cut-offs, wind shorts and biker shorts may not be worn; including jean shorts that are tight and rolled up.
7. All shirts will have a collar and sleeves. All shirts will be free of words and/or pictures and may have a logo of not larger than a 2 inch square. NO t-shirts are allowed except for Gonzales Apache spirit shirts which may be worn any day of the week. All shirts worn by males must be tucked in. Shirts worn by females must be tucked in if they are longer than the bottom of the hip.
8. All clothing that shows undergarments is unacceptable, including clothing with conspicuously low necklines and/or low backs.
9. Sagging pants (pants worn below the waist) will not be allowed. Belts will be worn in grades 5-12 for all male students. Pants must be hemmed and not frayed. Nylon, athletic, or wind pants are not acceptable. Boxer or spandex shorts are not acceptable as outer wear and must not be visible.
10. Oversized clothing or coats may not be worn. Sweaters, sweat shirts, and jackets must not fall below the back pockets.
11. Clothing such as undergarments, muscle shirts, halter-tops, cropped shirts, tank tops, spaghetti straps, and clothing that shows a bare midriff or cleavage are not acceptable.
12. Students shall not be permitted to wear hats, caps, sunglasses, sweatbands, or other disrupting apparel in any building on campus during school hours.
13. Garments that have spikes (bracelets, necklaces, belts, etc.) are not permitted.
14. Males may not wear earrings. Females may wear earrings. No other body piercing jewelry of any kind will be accepted.
15. Bare feet and metal taps are not acceptable.
16. Cleats may not be worn in any school building. Shoes with built-in skates or wheels (Healies) are not permitted in any building unless the wheels have been removed.
17. Clothing that displays violence, obscenity, tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, drugs, or any other substance prohibited under policy FNCF (L), is prohibited.
18. Any other attire that disrupts the educational process as determined by a school administrator is prohibited.
19. The school, advisor, or sponsor of any specific activity or function may impose additional guidelines.
20. Additional dress code guidelines are required by S.A.F.E. They may be obtained from the campus principal.
21. Inappropriate tattoos will be covered at all times as determined by school administrator.
22. House shoes, distracting, or unsafe shower shoes (beach type) will not be allowed.
23. No cargo pants allowed.
Perhaps much is understandable and most would agree is reasonable -- though of course coming from a T-shirt and jeans generation... some seems excessive. I would have problems with my own personal T-shirts and cargo pants that I wear and probably the track pants I wear normally while I am losing weight and my waist is changing so much. I have a few pair of pants with belt loops...
I can only imagine what they would do with groups such as the devout Sikh or people of other religious groups who have set religious rules about dress and hair that do not fit this set of rules. I guess they would feel these people belong in separate schools? Perhaps even in their own separate parts of the city or town so as not to disrupt things?
I don't know... I look at the picture of the boy's Mohawk, and I did have a better picture of the boy with the braided Native American hair, and if this is disruptive to the educational program... those must be very poor programs. There had better not be anything controversial in any newspaper the children might read or newscast they might see.
¹ "ACLU Sues School District For Punishing Kindergarten Student Because of Family's Religious Beliefs" Posted Oct 2, 2008 (updated Oct 9, 2008) American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.
² AA will be used to identify the boy in this article.
³ "School suspends kindergarten student over Mohawk haircut" Posted by Mike Carney, (Photo by Peggy Turbett, The Plain Dealer via AP) February 27, 2008; ON DEADLINE -- USATODAY.com.
⁴ "FLA. school boots little boy over Mohawk haircut" Posted by Mike Carney April 24, 2008; ON DEADLINE -- USA TODAY.com.
⁵ "School district will force dress-code violators to wear blue jumpsuits" Posted by Mike Carney July 30, 2008; ON DEADLINE -- USATODAY.com.
⁶ "Gonzales Independent School District -- Dress Code 2008-2009" 15 July 2008; Gonsales Independent School District.