There are bigger problems in life than hair color.
That’s where I’m choosing to start this column as we come off of a local student placed in all day detention for having un-natural colored hair. In layman’s terms, her hair is blue. A color choice which is in non-compliance with an area school district Conduct Code.
Disclaimer: this is my column space, appropriately titled Mommy Musings, meaning they are my thoughts … as a mom.
As journalists the column space offers us opportunity that is not directly linked or supported by our superiors or our readers. Simply put it’s sort of our unique forum similar to a reader’s opportunity for a Letter to the Editor. Unlike its sister the Editorial, columns are primarily based on personal opinion vs. editorials which are an “official” position of the newspaper.
Now of course there is the argument of who cares what we think? We’re reporters after all; just give the facts and move on to the next. Fortunately, for us and the three or so who are entertained by our thoughts, the First Amendment gives us this opportunity.
This topic of blue hair and its potential distraction to other students sent my mind racing in a million different directions. First, I am often distracted by young girls in short shorts, low cut tops with Victoria’s (not so) Secret peeking out or young men showing their Calvin Klein waist bands where belts belong.
I’m old, so I take no shame in sharing my ‘distraction’ usually comes in the form of a thought which is, ‘Take some pride in yourself and cover up.’ Yes, ‘cover up,’ that’s what I think. In the day and age of Political Correctness, fish face selfies and parents more concerned with being their child’s BFF vs. role model, I dare not say a word in their presence, but less is not always more.
As my 8-year-old shared when I posed the blue hair question, ‘It’s none of their business. It’s just hair.’ Now granted that was her reply to how she felt about disciplinary action based on hair color, but someone could just as easily say the same to me about the undergarment proud student, that’s fair.
What I found most interesting and encouraging was that there was indeed a time when hair outside of the defined ‘norm’ would catch the attention of others and potentially be distracting. But this is 2015 and while we still have a ways to go in some areas as a society, hair color does not seem to be one of them.
When I posed the ‘distraction’ question to my 11-year-old his point was more learning driven, noting that a classroom holds lots of things which are distracting i.e.: posters, teacher themes or décor, T-shirts with writing on them. He then followed this up sharing that he felt distraction was part of learning. ‘Life is full of distraction,’ he said. ‘Blue hair would get my attention once and then I’d remember I have to focus.’
Oh how simple and profound all at the same time. Life is distracting and noisy, complicated and messy.
While I’m proud of the insights my two students have exhibited in this hypothetical situation, I’m encouraged by the student who was faced by this challenge in the way she stood for what she believed to be fair.
There was no negative blasting the school district across social media for a rule which was dated. There was no ‘me the poor victim’ campaign spearheaded by her or her family. There was communication in an attempt to address the issue with the proper persons. There was respect and there was a student willing to spend a day in all day detention for standing firm to her belief. She understood the consequence and rather than fight it, she embraced it.
This student and her family taught me as a mom a valuable lesson. It was not a lesson in challenging authority; that was never her mission. She was challenging an outdated guideline.
As a result, the guideline is now up for reconsideration by the district. The district has decided to suspend action for this year against students with ‘un-natural’ hair color.
That is progress. A student who refused to conform for the sake of an outdated guideline and a district that is willing to say, maybe this does deserve a second look. Bravo to both.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.