After a student was suspended at a middle school in Virginia for holding open the door for a visitor and two more children were suspended for drawing stick figures and putting a “kick-me” post-it on a classmate, news of another irrational suspension from Louisiana is making me question whether teachers are suspending students far too readily. Seth Chaisson, an American Indian junior high school student, was suspended from school for two days for refusing to cut his hair, which he says he keeps long for cultural and religious reasons.
The ACLU quickly got involved, demanding a guarantee that Chaisson would be allowed back in school permanently, and that all disciplinary action would be erased from his record. They are claiming that suspending Chaisson or even asking him to cut his hair was a violation of his religious freedom. ACLU executive director Marjorie Esman explained that the action was like refusing to allow a Jewish student to wear a yarmulke or asking a Christian student to take off his or her cross.
Esman said that Chaisson “is becoming more in tune with his own religious beliefs. Just as a junior high school student might decide to wear a cross that they had never wanted to wear before, he has now decided to grow his hair out in a way he had never decided to do before.”
The ACLU is clearly right here – the boy should never have been subject to such potentially humiliating disciplinary action. These rules also seem, frankly, absurd – what could the school possibly gain from asking a student to cut his hair? Sure, it’s something of a cultural oddity for men to have extremely long hair (which in itself is rather inexplicable), but regulating the length of a student’s hair is certainly not within a school’s purview.
Photo from Flickr.