I'm a rule follower for the most part. I hate to get into trouble. That may surprise some of you because I often tend to be sassy, bossy and the rule-breaking type here on ML.
The truth is that I have a rebellious, standing-my-ground side and a strict rule-follower side. Somehow those two sides of me have co-existed for almost 38 years.
When I was in junior high, I'm sorry to say that jams were in style. Do you remember jams; the brightly colored over-sized shorts made of wild patterned fabric? Well, we were allowed to wear those hideous shorts to school on certain spirit days, as long as the hem reached to the knees.
I wore them, but I was always worried I'd be called to the office to check for jams length. An absurd concern, I'm sure, but nonetheless, I did. Other apparel and accessory rules I was aware of back in the late 80s and early 90s: no sweats, flip-flops or shorts or skirts shorter than knee length, no combs in back pockets or stuck in hair and no tank tops. I strictly adhered to these rules.
No Self Expression Allowed
I recently read two articles involving hairstyles and school rules. Each very different in style and geography. And as apt as I was to follow the rules of the school, I have to say if it had been my child in either of these stories, I would have fought the school on it.
In this first situation, a 12 year old Texas middle school student was told to shave his head or get an in-school suspension after he had a hairstylist shave the image of San Antonio Spurs player, Matt Bonner, into the back of his hair.
It was an impressive creation. The haircut cost him $75, and it clearly depicts the head of a basketball player about to shoot a basketball.
The school deemed it a distraction and threatened suspension. Never mind that it was an interesting self-expression; never mind that there were only a few days of school left; never mind that it surely wouldn't cause a ruckus at school. I just can't imagine that it could be such a distraction to the students that they couldn't focus on the teacher or their school work. That seems preposterous to me.
Bonner suggested the teachers just move him to the back of the classroom if the back of the boys' head became the star attraction. Gonzales did reluctantly shave his head in order to return to school, but on a positive note, the Spurs gave boy and his family tickets to the playoff game.
Going GaGa for Nothin'
In the second hair related story, a young girl was banned from her school class photo because of her hairstyle. Four year old, Marcella Merino, a British primary student, asked her father, a professional hairstylist to make her look like a princess for her class photo. The result was a Lady GaGa meets Minnie Mouse design. Her hair was transformed into a bow on the top of her head; a tasteful and creative style. And I must admit, she looked really cute, not inappropriate at all.
The school banned her from the photo saying she had violated school dress rules. The dress code requires that hair ribbons be only maroon, black or navy blue and prohibits braids or beads.
Now, really, her hair isn't braided or beaded and the bow isn't made of ribbon, but is her hair. Not sure she actually broke any of the rules.
Both of these situations made me think. If we focus so much on a person's self expression and outward appearance, we're more than likely missing a great deal more.
We tell our kids you can be anyone you want to be; you can do anything you can imagine; think outside the box; be your own person; dream big! But then, we turn around and say conform; don't make a scene; don't be outrageous; don't be different or unique; dress and style your hair like everyone else or you might be a distraction to your friends and classmates and that will spell trouble.
Seems like a mixed message to me. I know there are limits, but these two cases are a far reach from being inappropriate regarding decency issues or infringing on other's rights.
These scenarios are reminiscent of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District from 1969, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that students and teachers do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. Over and out...