Update: January 20, 2010
Taylor has returned to his class with a new hairstyle! His mother said that his hair was still long, but that it was now styled in a double French braid pinned up at the base of his neck, so that it does not extend over the collar of his shirt. Apparently Taylor’s new style met the approval of the school principal, and he has now rejoined his classmates.
It’s never too soon to enforce the school dress code. That seems to be the guiding principle behind the administration at Walter Floyd Elementary School in Mesquite, Texas. Four-year-old Taylor Pugh was suspended from his prekindergarten class on November 24, 2009, because he wears his hair too long (close to shoulder length or in a ponytail), and doesn’t want his parents to cut it. When asked why he was no longer in class, Taylor declared, “They kicked me out!” adding quickly, “I miss my friends.” Since being removed from the classroom, the youngster has been sent to the library every day to study with a teacher’s aide. He’s just too much of a distraction to remain in class.
That was the decision of the principal, but on January 10 the school board of the Mesquite Independent School District in the Dallas area supported that decision and voted unanimously to maintain its ban on long hair for boys.
So where do Taylor’s parents stand on this? His father, Delton Pugh, told the Associated Press: “I don’t think it’s right to hold a child down and force him to do something. It’s not hurting him of affecting his education.” The board proposed a compromise whereby Taylor’s parents would not have to cut off his long locks, but could braid them and pin them up. Mom and dad rejected this option.
There are some troubling questions here. Why is a boy with long hair more distracting than a girl with long hair? Is shoulder-length generally considered long? Why isn’t the school more focused on teaching than on personal grooming for preK students?
Generally the idea behind dress codes is that students should not wear distracting clothes like shirts that advertize sex or drugs or alcohol, spaghetti straps for girls, or low-slung pants for boys. And of course gang-related colors and clothing. These make total sense, but long hair? How distracting can a boy’s ponytail be?
The rules at the Mesquite school district seem to be closely aligned with the zero-tolerance policies, introduced in 1994 with the Gun Free Schools Act, and which were put in place to reduce the level of violence at schools. But when children are booted out of school for bringing tweezers or a Cub Scout’s camping tool to class, haven’t things gone too far? That’s what happened to Zachary Christie in October of last year. Six-year-old Zach was so excited about joining the Cub Scouts and acquiring a camping tool that can serve as a knife, fork and spoon, that he wanted to share it at school. Bad idea! The Christina School District in Newark, DE, decided to suspend the first grader from school for 45 days.
Have school adminstrations got their priorities wrong? Shouldn’t they get back to the business of teaching?
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