It’s not the first time we’ve heard this story in the past year, but the increasing frequency of these reports is alarming. It makes me wonder if we’re heading back to the enforcement of uniformity present in 1950s and 1960s America.
J.T. Gaskins, age 17 and a resident of Michigan, found out that the sister of a family friend had been diagnosed with cancer during his holiday break. Given that J.T. was a cancer survivor himself (having been diagnosed with leukemia at eight weeks of age, and finally declared in remission at age four) felt as if he should do something to support her battle. What can a guy do to show his support of fellow cancer-warriors? Well, he decided that he would grow out his hair, and once it was long enough (10 inches is the norm), he would donate it to Locks of Love.
It’s not all the often that we hear of teenage boys being this altruistic, is it? Well, actually, there’s precedent. Zach Aufderheide, a junior in Ohio, also had the same notion about donating his hair. In fact, he’s donated his hair to Locks of Love seven times. What to know what else these two boys have in common?
They both faced suspension for violating the dress and hair policy for their respective school districts. Both live in districts that have rules against hair on male students going beyond the shirt collar. They both took their cases to the school board, and they both lost.
Not that guys are the only ones who are facing problems with highly-restrictive dress and hair policies. Rylee MacKay, a fifteen year old girl from Utah has recently been kicked out of school because her shade of hair coloring (auburn) was too pinkish-purplish for the vice principal of her school. No matter that she’s been dying her hair this color since school started in September! Her school district has limitations on what color girls can dye their hair—maintaining that is must be within the natural color range—but there apparently is a lot of room for personal judgment on what is natural.
And it’s not just hair… No longer content to prevent spaghetti-strapped tops and t-shirts with innuendos, many school districts have decided to ban things like yoga pants, UGG boots, makeup, and much, much more.
Now, I may be dating myself here, but the only thing I really needed to worry about in school when it came to the dress code was making sure that my skirt or shorts at least came down to my fingertips with my arms at my sides. Of course, since I have freakishly-long legs and freakishly short arms (Yeah, it’s completely fair to think T-Rex here), I was presented with some ‘advantages’. We were able to wear anything that didn’t have curse words. No one cared about our combat boots. Nobody cared how long the boys’ hair was, and some of the guys in my high school even wore skirts/kilts. And no one certainly cared about our dyed hair (I preferred both red and purple, in my day).
In fact, my folks enjoyed reminding me that it was their class that brought down the super-restrictive dress and hair code in my school—that they had staged a walk-out to protest the hair polices for boys (eerily similar to what is mentioned here) and the ban on girls being allowed to wear jeans to school (correlation to yoga pants, anyone?). I was reminded that I could thank them for my ability to wear baggy jeans, ratty flannels, mid-riff tops, and dye my hair. And folks? That uber-dress code my parents helped to bring down? That was over FORTY years ago.
I think it’s time for school districts to stop worrying about how the student look in class (because it’s not disruptive, unless you make it so by bringing this much attention to it), and start worrying about what’s taught in class. That might help. Oh, and then we could also stop punishing the gentlemen mentioned above—who seem to be pretty good kids with decent grades, etc.—for wanting to do something for those who are fighting cancer.
Demonstrating that going out of your way to be kind in a unique way will only bring you trouble is not the message we really want to be sending to our kids.