Subscribe to this Blog
Today's Blogs
    The Checkup:

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Here we go again. Another kid suspended from school because of his hair. This time the offending child is 6-year-old Bryan Ruda of Parma, Ohio. Parma Community School apparently warned Bryan's mother twice before that his Mohawk violated the charter school's dress code, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports.

The elementary school dress code in Parma says "only natural hair colors are permitted" and that the district can exclude anything deemed "disruptive or offensive to the conduct of education," the Plain-Dealer says. And that's what caused Bryan's suspension. Kids were talking about his hair.

Bryan isn't the first kid suspended from school because of his haircut. Remember Jayce Brown of Waldorf, Md.? The 3-year-old's private school suspended him for wearing dreadlocks. Jayce's school at the time, Southern Maryland Christian Academy, has a policy for boys against "extreme faddish hairstyles, including the use of rubber bands or the 'twisting' of hair."

A random sampling of dress codes in public schools in the Washington region say nothing about hair. No drug or gang images on clothing. No low-cut tops putting cleavage front and center. Nothing that disrupts the job of learning. And not a word about turning hair blue, orange or rainbow-colored. Nothing about Mohawks or shaved heads. Nothing about short or long, pulled back or not. Maybe that's because a person's hair is simply not the schools' business? Sure, some private schools can and do hold different standards than public. A teenage neighbor dyed his hair a couple of summers ago. While his mom had no problem with the self expression, his religious school did. Hence, the summer freedom to change hair color.

Do you think these schools are acting like hotheads? Are there types of hairstyles that really are distractions?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  March 3, 2008; 7:10 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers , Teens , Tweens
Previous: The Best Creations | Next: Test Me, Test Me

Comments


It teaches conformance rather than allowing a child to think/act for himself. I grew up in a progressive educational environment so a rule like this would never fly.

and oh....first!

Posted by: happydad | March 3, 2008 7:42 AM | Report abuse

As long as the hair doesn't impede the view of the board, how can it be such an enormous distraction? I did lots of crazy piercing and tattooing after I was 18, but until then I got to do what I wanted with my hair. My daughter will have the same freedom.

Posted by: atb | March 3, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Parents pay good money to send their kids to private schools so their kids don't have to mix with the freaks, riftraff, and otherwise undesirables. Enforceing dress codes in this environment is a business decision that has more to do with recruitment than anything else.

However, children do have a right to public education whether or not tthey are a freak, member of the riftraft, or otherwise give the appearance that they are undesirable, at least as far as their hair is concerned. Good!

Posted by: DandyLion | March 3, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse

I really think that kids should be allowed to have their own hairstyle.

That said, in all cases, it sounds like it's the PARENTS' hairstyles here. I'm not saying that a 6yo can't choose himself, but the likelihood that it's the parent doing the choosing is greater.

What's the solution? I don't know, but parents like that exhaust me.

Posted by: Stormy1 | March 3, 2008 8:23 AM | Report abuse

A Supreme Court decision said that public schools cannot dictate hairstyles, but they can have dress codes. Private schools can do what they want.

Posted by: ZF | March 3, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Dandylion says: "Parents pay good money to send their kids to private schools so their kids don't have to mix with the freaks, riftraff, and otherwise undesirables."

Surely you are not suggesting that kids with nonmainstream hairstyles are freaks, riffraff and undesirable? And is that what you assume about children in public school? There are so many things wrong with this statement I don't know where to start.

So let me go back to the originally posed question. Yes, these private schools are severely overreacting and unnecessarily stomping on these kids personal identity and self esteem.

Posted by: SighFC | March 3, 2008 8:27 AM | Report abuse

I disagree with the rule, but the parents in these cases are idiots. I wish people would stop using their children as billboards -- my sister wanted her 6 m.o. baby to wear a onesie that had the Clash's "London Calling" cover on it. Give me a break.

Also, I agree with Fo4 (Dandylion).

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 3, 2008 8:32 AM | Report abuse

I am wondering what the school expected the Ohio 6 year old to do about his mohawk- I mean, you can't grow it out overnight! Was he supposed to wear a hat to school to cover it up? Or shave the rest of his head? (which I am not sure would be less "distracting")

Posted by: acorn | March 3, 2008 8:42 AM | Report abuse

I found that story very interesting. I let my 5-year-old get a mohawk last year (while still in daycare). He thought it was cool for about 2 days, then got tired of the attention. We buzzed it off a week later.

Of course, I also had some "extreme" hairstyles and wardrobe choices growing up. It was my creative outlet and my mom allowed it as long I stayed away from drugs, etc and kept my grades up. You never would have thought by looking at me that I was a straight-A good kid and I learned a lot about people and how they treat you based on appearances.

Posted by: Jen | March 3, 2008 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Jen - Letting a middle school or high school kid experiment with his hair is one thing. Where does a 5-year old get the idea that a mohawk is something he wants?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 3, 2008 8:49 AM | Report abuse

as a native clevelander, i can say i doesn't surprise me a bit that something like this would happen in parma. not exactly a hotbed of creativity or forward thinking...

if wild hairstyles and piercings are as far as my kids feel the need to go in expressing their independence from me, i will thank my lucky stars. there are SO many things that matter more, it just stuns me that people are still caught up in this archaic conformist mindset. it's the parents who really lay down the law and try to control everything their kids do and think that end up with the worst problems later on.

and give those other kids in the class a little credit! i'm guessing they can still carry on whatever intense academic drilling goes on in their kindergarten class, even with little bryan's hair to distract them....

Posted by: vikki | March 3, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse

WorkingMomX- A London Calling shirt, a Polo shirt, a pink flowery shirt, a shirt with a tractor on it, a shirt with a silly slogan like "up all night" on it, etc all say something about the parent, not the child. Why is that a problem? You dress your kid like you want to until they have an opinion.

Last summer we were walking past a field where a bunch of kids under 8 were having soccer practice. At least 5 had mohawks. I'm guessing the kids requested them.

Posted by: atb | March 3, 2008 9:01 AM | Report abuse

It's a private school; they can set the rules they like. If you don't like it, don't send your kid there.

We knew that when we elected to send our son to his Catholic high school that we were signing him up for a dress code that included restrictions on hair length/height/styles, plus the rules about uniforms. It was part of the deal; if it bothered us that much we wouldn't have sent him there.

Why does the Catholic high school impose those rules? Well, while DandyLion (Fo4/LilHusky) is politically incorrect, he's right. They want to make it clear that it's a serious learning environment and they don't want the riffraff.

Note clearly that riffraff has nothing to do with race or economic status. The school is very diverse (slightly more than 40% African-American, I think; around the same percentage white with the rest being Hispanic or of Asian descent). And there are numerous kids there from poor, inner-city families who are getting significant scholarships. But every one of those kids and their families have shown that they're willing to live by the rules, dedicate themselves to learning and be good citizens. Far from riffraff in the school's (and my) opinion.

Posted by: Army Brat | March 3, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

When the Iraq war started several guys I worked with as a contractor at the Army Materiel Command got modified mohawks as a bonding experience prior to being sent over. In my memory, which could be faulty, I saw General Kern joke with these guys as he walked through the cafeteria at the old AMC building. Might have just been some colonel, but I think it was the General. Note that the mohawk is not purely regulation but didn't seem to faze anyone either.

People who are successful in life only demand results. Martinets on the other hand...

Posted by: DCer | March 3, 2008 9:29 AM | Report abuse

"They want to make it clear that it's a serious learning environment and they don't want the riffraff."

Riffraff hasn't squat to do with it. Dress codes, including hair codes, send a message that: (a) we have rules, (b) we take education seriously and dressing and looking your "best" sends a message that you take your education seriously, too; (c) learning to follow instructions is a key part of any learning environment. Many of us send our kids to schools that have dress and hair codes precisely because those codes support, rather than undercut, our values and standards. Choose for yourself with your own kids, either with your feet or your pocketbook. No one is making you go to a school with standards.

If a no-rules learning environment is what you want, go for it. Tell me how that works out for your child in a few years. I wish the average U.S. parent was as concerned about academic excellence as she is about freedom of expression.

Posted by: mn.188 | March 3, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Why are the parents sending their kids to private/charter schools and then doing their hair in a way that goes against the rules? They are the ones who are irrational.

My 3-5 y/o children never did their own hair. At that age it's the parent.

Even "nice" kids get lice, so my feeling is that any hairstyle that discourages washing and combing is bad.

I don't believe hair will stay kool-aid pink when washed, and all the mow hawks I've seen depended on a LOT of gel to stay up. That's the kind of thing that I think discourages washing and combing, and that's what I think encourages head lice.

There are many other ways to express individuality that also support hygiene.

Posted by: RoseG | March 3, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

mn 188, what are you talking about? How is there any relationship between haircuts and academic achievement?

This reminds me why my parents quit their country club, because riffraff was just a code word for "African Americans." Sorry, but I grew up in a fancy shmancy suburb and out of doors it was "desirables" and inside the house it was "whites."

Posted by: Anonymous | March 3, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

DCer - while the mohawk is not "purely regulation" it's not very darned far out of regulation either, unless the remaining hair is really long. I'm willing to bet that in the case to which you refer the remaining hair was pretty short. And yes the commanders tend to tolerate things like that because high morale is important when you're facing things like death and maiming.

There are numerous examples of folks getting similar haircuts as a bonding experience. The members of the boys' lacrosse team at my daughters' high school all shaved their heads at the start of practice a few years ago. All of them - white, Asian-American, African-American - shaved their heads. They did it because everybody on the rival high school's team bleached his hair white (not blond, white) and they wanted to show that they were willing to take it one step further. Fine.

But to equate a school that sets rules and enforces them to a martinet? I don't get it.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 3, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

DCer - while the mohawk is not "purely regulation" it's not very darned far out of regulation either, unless the remaining hair is really long. I'm willing to bet that in the case to which you refer the remaining hair was pretty short. And yes the commanders tend to tolerate things like that because high morale is important when you're facing things like death and maiming.

There are numerous examples of folks getting similar haircuts as a bonding experience. The members of the boys' lacrosse team at my daughters' high school all shaved their heads at the start of practice a few years ago. All of them - white, Asian-American, African-American - shaved their heads. They did it because everybody on the rival high school's team bleached his hair white (not blond, white) and they wanted to show that they were willing to take it one step further. Fine.

But to equate a school that sets rules and enforces them to a martinet? I don't get it.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 3, 2008 9:53 AM | Report abuse

atb, I do think it's a problem when parents pick stuff that's not age appropriate for a child to wear because they (the parents) think it's cool or something. It's just like the onesies with political slogans, or making your kid carry a sign and picketing at a movie you think is inappropriate or offensive to your religion. Why should a child be used to promote your beliefs/thoughts/personal preferences? I think it's exploitative.

Granted, the Clash is probably low on the totem pole of statements a person can make with a child's clothing, but what about "Weepublican" or something on a 3-month old's shirt? I mean, why not have a shirt that says "My parents are going to try to brainwash me and turn me into a carbon copy of themselves?"

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 3, 2008 9:59 AM | Report abuse

"If a no-rules learning environment is what you want, go for it."

mn- I thought you were against all forms of hyperbole. And straw men. Mustn't forget the straw men.

Posted by: atb | March 3, 2008 10:00 AM | Report abuse

(whoops - sorry for that last double post. I should pay more attention when posting while having a work-related phone conversation. Mea culpa.)

to anonymous at 9:39 - okay, in your environment "riffraff" equates to "minorities". That's a shame. I didn't grow up in that environment, I don't live in that environment, and I thought I made it pretty clear that at my son's school "riffraff" has nothing to do with race or socio-economic status. It equates to "willing to do what's necessary to get a good education" vs "not willing to do what's necessary to get a good education."

My personal view is that hair length/style is not directly related to education or ability. I grew up mostly attending military dependent schools, which at the time had no dress code. Then I went to public schools in Louisiana with incredibly strict dress codes. Guess which schools had the higher academic achievement? It wasn't related to the dress code; it was related to the culture and the environment.

But regardless of my personal view on the subject, the fact remains that if a private school imposes a set of rules, and you want to attend that school, then you have to obey the rules. And thinking you're going to do otherwise is naive.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | March 3, 2008 10:01 AM | Report abuse

WorkingMomX- I'm in complete agreement with you there. I kinda thought that's where you were going, but I like the thought of the Clash shirt! There is an Onion shirt that says "I ruined a perfectly good band" that cracks me up. I buy pretty much anything I find in black, because it looks great on my kid and there is only so much pink I can take. The political thing that bothers me most is involving 5 year olds in the pro-choice pro-life movement. Nothing like a tot holding a picture of a dead baby or a my body my choice sign.

Posted by: atb | March 3, 2008 10:05 AM | Report abuse

fr DandyLion:

>...Parents pay good money to send their kids to private schools so their kids don't have to mix with the freaks, riftraff, and otherwise undesirables. ..

Um, newsflash here: You will eventually mix with the "freaks, riftraff, and otherwise undesirables.". It's called LIFE.

Posted by: Alex | March 3, 2008 10:08 AM | Report abuse

BTW Alex, I'm a member of the freaks/riffraff/undesirable club. On the contrary of mixing with these type of people, when I post to this blog, I'm forced to mixg with the educated, responsible, and those with elitest standards. :-)

And yes, all my kids have my permission to wear their hair anyway they darn well please. However, I do have one tatoo/piercing rule: not until the 8th grade.

Posted by: DandyLion | March 3, 2008 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Hey WorkingMomX:
I would buy my six-month-old a Beatles, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, or Pixies shirt because she likes to listen to the bands. Maybe your friend's kid was a real authentic punk. :)

Posted by: demosthenes | March 3, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Also, my son (12 now) did the mohawk thing like 2-3 years ago. Yawn...

Posted by: demosthenes | March 3, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse

guess what kids, you don't always get to do what you want, when and where you want or at least not without a consequence. You don't wear your bathing suit to the mall and later when you get a job, most likely you will have to modify what you wear and how you behave to some standard norms. Do whatever you like on the weekend, but at work or school, there are rules. If you don't like them then you need to be willing to suffer the consequences - different school, different job. My kids have uniforms which frankly I think is wonderful. It is affordable and makes the mornings very easy. They are still certainly themselves, just in a uniform. There are many many ways in wich one can express themselves. Parents should see these rules as an opportunity to be even more creative.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | March 3, 2008 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Demosthenes, It's not my friend, it's my sister (fiend angelic) and I love her but she's kind of a poseur.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 3, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

So, do the hair rules exist as a rule for rule's sake, or are they rally meant to decrease distractions? Dress codes I get for MANY reasons, and I love the thought of uniforms, but I just don't get the hair thing.

Posted by: atb | March 3, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Good for the school. The only ones to be criticized are the nitwit parents who are raising their kids with a misguided sense of how to interact with society. These are the same kids who will later show up with a mohawk for a job and wonder, Why do I never get called back?

Posted by: PWAA | March 3, 2008 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I agree with everyone who said that if parents don't support the rules of a school they are electing to send their kids to, then they shouldn't be sending them there in the first place. If you choose to send your child there, then you need to be prepared to follow those regulations.

I do think that kids should be allowed to express themsselves and a funky haircut is a safe, non-permanent way to do so. However, my opinion on haircuts has nothing to do with this post.

Posted by: Momof5 | March 3, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I think many of us are missing the key point here: the hairstyle voilated the rules of the charter school. There are rules in life, and our society--especially the professional world--demands some amount of conformity. School is about many things, primarily preparing youngsters to be successful in the world. Charter schools are an alternative to failing public ones! It's not about creatity; it's about respect for the rules of the institution that you chose to send your child to. I went to Catholic school, and if you voilated the dress code, you got sent home. Period. That taught me that there is a way to present myself in public and interact with people (especially those in authority) that is appropriate; that perspective was a key part in helping me be successful. You're not helping your kids if you send the message to always "do your own thing". Be a parent, and let the teachers and administrators do their jobs--even if (and especially if)they are critical of your precious little one. They might have a different and more objective opinion than yours.

Posted by: MD Mom | March 3, 2008 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I agree that if you make a choice to go somewhere, you need to abide by those rules, or risk getting kicked out. It's sad that a kid would be put in the middle of that.

I agree that the "adult" world requires some comformity because most adults can't handle things being weird or unique, at least in part because they've always been TAUGHT and TOLD that conformity is good and comformity shows respect.

I fail to see how allowing people to wear what they want and style their hair as they want will negate the possibility of them becoming well reasoned, mature, responsible adults who know exactly how to conform when appropriate.

The problem with individuality however is that once you start, it's hard to stop. And we can't have new people thinking TOO far out of the box. Much better to nip in the bud in a direct physical sense before any serious individuality peeks through.

Posted by: Liz D | March 3, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Granted, the Clash is probably low on the totem pole of statements a person can make with a child's clothing, but what about "Weepublican" or something on a 3-month old's shirt? I mean, why not have a shirt that says "My parents are going to try to brainwash me and turn me into a carbon copy of themselves?"

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 3, 2008 09:59 AM

There was a picture the other day of the "2nd woman president" on a onesie of a little girl. Works both ways (the brainwashing that is).

Posted by: WDC 21113 | March 3, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I can't see getting too hot and bothered over a kid's hairstyle. My child (a toddler) has decided opinions on how she wants her hair to look. Right now it's limited to length and whether or not we wear barrettes. But I see the future 10 years down the road.

That being said, if you're going to a school with rules, you need to abide by them. We have a well-regarded local school here that requires girls to wear their hair out of their faces. Well, that pretty much disqualifies us - my daughter would sooner turn off Sesame Street than let me pull back her hair each day. So we didn't even bother.

As for "message" clothes - my kid has a lot of them. Concert onesies, ones with nametags, etc. It's cute. She doesn't wear them so much any more because she's independent-minded in her dress. Her uncle gave her a new "little democrat" t-shirt the other day. I doubt she'll wear that anywhere other than at home, or if she spills on her main shirt and we're away from home (like on a plane). I feel a little uncomfortable with political slogans on kids (but a Buffy t-shirt? totally fine).

Posted by: anny | March 3, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

mn- I thought you were against all forms of hyperbole. And straw men. Mustn't forget the straw men.

Posted by: atb | March 3, 2008 10:00 AM

atb, What are you talking about?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 3, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Um, sorry, but a charter school gets to set its own rules. Deal with it.

Posted by: Ryan | March 4, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

test

Posted by: timetest | March 12, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company