Have you read about the Mesquite School District school board decision As reported in the Dallas news, Taylor Pugh, a four-year old pre-kindergarten boy, was told to braid and pin up his long hair or continue to be separated from his classmates for not following the school dress code. The code prohibits long-haired boys from “disrupting” classrooms.
Taylor, in pre-school, has been hanging out in the library with an aide since November and will continue to remain there until his parents cut his hair — or the board changes the 40-year-old dress code policy.
According to the district dress code, all boys’ hair must be kept out of the eyes and cannot extend below the bottom of earlobes or over the collar of a dress shirt. “Fads in hairstyles designed to attract attention to the individual or to disrupt the orderly conduct of the classroom or campus is not permitted,” the policy states.
It seems like a stretch to declare that a ponytail or long hair is an inappropriate fad for men when our founding fathers wore powdered wigs and pony tails. Wigs or braids aside, after an appeals process, a compromise offered by the school board allows Taylor to return to school in braids. This compromise seems absurd and contradictory to it’s own policy.
Worse, the parents plan to bring him to school, hair in a ponytail, even after the ruling. They declare he doesn’t want to cut his hair or they would do it.
But remember, Taylor is four. A haircut might make him cry, but he’ll adjust. Kids are resilient. The parents may take the longest to adjust. How much longer will they hide their child in the library while their egos heal.
It’s not the dress code or the definition of a fad in the dress code. No, it’s not even the underlying gender bias or even the poorly written policy that bothers me so much as a child put in the middle while the school board and the parents duke it out in meetings and amidst a media circus. The inconsistencies of the decisions made by the adults in Taylor’s life send some serious mixed messages. (Come to think of it, he might be learning a whole lot about how the world really works!)
His parents have not accepted the dress code and elevate the value of hair length to be above education and socialization for their son. The 4-year-old has been separated from his peers and his optimal learning environment for almost three months. The school board, upon appeal, adjusted the dress code and ignored their own policy. (Why have one!)
My point is, neither the school board nor the parents put the kid’s education ahead of the control issue. And remember, the adults are squabbling for control over hair.
Meanwhile, education remains under-funded, learning environments are less safe and more chaotic. Yet parents and federal standards expect kids to be taught and teachers to be teaching. What students learn from parents and educators in this situation — and similar battles between school boards and communities playing out across the classrooms of America — remains to be seen and measured. Our future leaders are the products of this system, our social norms and culture defined by each graduating generation.
Appeals aside, those trusted to educate our children will get right on that important job of teaching reading, writing and the basics– just as soon as they deal with all the extraneous responsibilities of schools today like cutting budgets, massaging parents’ and policy holder’s egos, and those darn bad hair days.
Where do you stand on this issue? Should the parents be forced to cut their son’s hair, or should the school abolish its rules about it.
About Annita Wozniak
Annita Wozniak grew up in a large, imperfect family in the Midwest. "As adults we have the power to build children up or tear them down," she says about the challenges of being a responsible parent, "and we never know when what we say is going to be a defining moment in a child's life." Woz is a writer and child-grower living in the Midwest with her husband and their three inspirational children. She is always learning. You can visit her website at annitawoz.wordpress.com