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Does hair-raising policy go too far?

April 22, 2013 - Erin O'Neill
Should the rights of one ever be allowed to affect the rights of many? When is it right to fight for what you believe and when is it best to follow the masses? There are many topics in the news lately that delve into this conundrum but, since “Baby Steps” is a column focusing on parenting and family matters, I’m going to try to tackle one of the less controversial subjects.

A young student in Springfield, Ohio, was suspended from his kindergarten class recently because of what was — or rather was not — on the top of his head. Five-year-old Ethan Clos sported a mohawk hairstyle that seemingly was against school policy and was deemed a distraction because the other little 5- and 6-year-olds wanted to touch it. According to Clark-Shawnee Local School District Superintendent Gregg Morris, the dress code policy of the district “clearly states that any dress or grooming which is disruptive or distracting to the educational process is not acceptable.”

As someone who has never been keen on the idea of conformity, the idea of prohibiting a child from learning simply because of his haircut, to me, is ludicrous and, in fact, creates even more of a distraction. What if a young girl’s mom created a “faux” mohawk on her child’s head by creating a row of ponytails or by adding fake pieces of hair in the neon colors that little girls in elementary school so love these days? Would this be acceptable simply because the child is a girl? What if a little boy wanted to sport those neon colors? Or in a more frightening scenario, what if my child has to have chemotherapy and loses her hair? A bald girl is not normal, right? Kids might have questions, right? OK so being sick is not a choice like having a mohawk. But what if my child wanted to support her friend who has cancer by asking me to shave her head? Acceptable? I would hope so, even though the other students might definitely be distracted by hair today, gone tomorrow.

The mother of this little boy said he thought the look was cool and, like any good mom, she just wanted to make her child happy by obliging to something seemingly innocuous. Isn’t it more distracting that it has drummed up all this publicity? Mom gave in and agreed to shave the rest of the hair off but I think the damage is done.

On the other hand, rules are rules and we can’t pick and choose which rules to follow. And we can’t teach our children to disobey rules, right? So where do you draw the line? My child wants pierced ears because it’s “cool” and some other little girls her age — and some boys I might add — have pierced ears. Absolutely not, is my reply. Not until you’re 20. Such behavior might lead to tattoos (heaven forbid!) and unnatural hair color. (Hypocritical? Of course. But I have been known to suspend all reasonable thought when it comes to my own child.) But are pierced ears on boys OK? Are tattoos on teenagers OK at school? If “questionable” hairstyles become acceptable, should “questionable” clothing be acceptable as well?

However, I do think that with the state of education in Ohio, making a big to-do over a little boy’s hairdo is missing the point. Is there not something else that is more deserving of our attention? I’m thinking if we look hard we could probably find a thing or two.


Article Comments



May-18-13 12:00 PM

Policies are a lot like laws and sometimes it isn't that they are so much of a restriction on ONE but a protection for ALL. I obey the law of the land. If the speed LIMIT is posted as being 45 mph, then I am not going to go over 44 because 45 is the LIMIT, not the median. We'd all be better off if we realized that policies, for the most part, are about respect and don't limit us as much as they open the way for our greater good.


Apr-22-13 3:12 PM

On a similar train of thought, a security officer where I work just recently discovered he was of Native American descent (or so he claimed). His tribe was one that forbid cutting hair, and he began to grow his out - against our employers grooming standards. He was told to cut it, or find a new job. A lawsuit was filed and is still pending. Just more to think about...


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