Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pink Hair Turns Some Red, But For Different Reasons

I taught at the middle school where this incident occurred. The principal mentioned in the news article was our vice principal when I was there; in fact, she was the one who evaluated me. I have nothing but praise, admiration, and respect for her.

If you're not much for clicking on links, let me give you the condensed version: the school has a rule about having "unnatural" colored hair. A girl came to school with pink hair, earning some time in the principal's office for violation of the rules. I have it on pretty good authority that the girl's mother signed the school's behavior code at the beginning of school, and that code mentions the hair color rule. And let's look at these quotes from the article, ones that reinforce what I said above about the principal:

Principal Trish Baldwin said Thursday that she understands Ashley is making an effort, and the girl will be welcomed to class today even if the offending color lingers.

"As long as we could tell she is making progress toward a more natural color, she can come to class," Baldwin said...

Hair color is restricted more in younger grades than at high schools, Baldwin said. The idea is to get young students focused on academics rather than on themselves, she said.

Baldwin hasn't sensed a groundswell of support for changes to the dress code, including hair color restrictions.

It looks to me like she's being eminently reasonable.

Having taught at junior high for six years, I support the policy. Junior high students are easily distracted, and unnatural or outlandish appearances have much more of an impact at that age. Having taught high school for more than four years now I've seen that high school students have more maturity and ability to deal with differences, so thankfully we don't have such rules at high school.

You can see the fault lines in this situation, can't you?

--Rules are made to be broken! (No, they're not. That's why we assign penalties to breaking them.)
--She should be free to express her individuality however she wants! (No, she shouldn't. She can express it within the confines given her, just like all the rest of us.)
--This rule is stupid! (While I disagree, that is a legitimate disagreement. Take it up with the school board.)

I'm sure there are some of you out there--anonymous troll included!--who will try to make some claim about me and rules. Before you do so, however, I encourage you to read this post from a year and a half ago, especially the first two paragraphs.

There's one aspect of this story that I haven't mentioned yet. I've been saving the best till last, kind of like Paul Harvey and his Rest Of The Story.

When your 13-year-old kid is longing for an eyebrow piercing, the washable pink hair dye might seem like a pretty benign alternative.

At least that's what Orangevale mom Sandra Chavez thought.

"I thought it was one area where we can compromise. I didn't think it would offend," said Chavez, the mother of Andrew Carnegie Middle School student Ashley Davis.

So first off we have a weak mom who feels a need to negotiate with a 13-year-old girl over an eyebrow piercing. But wait, it gets better:

Her mother, a high school teacher at Natomas High School...

Yes, folks, you read that right--her mother is a fellow teacher!

Mama's baby gets sent to the principal's office for violating a school rule, and mommy contacts the local paper and television news! What a self-absorbed, weak woman.

I wonder--when a student breaks the rules in Mrs. Chavez' class, does she support their going to the press and whining about it? Does Mrs. Chavez support her own school rules, or does she allow students to violate them as she did with her own daughter? Does Mrs. Chavez negotiate deals regarding rules with her students, like she did with her daughter? Does Mrs. Chavez attempt to undercut and backstab the administrators at her own school like she did the ones at her daughter's school? Does Mrs. Chavez ever sit in the staff lounge and complain about overprotective, overbearing parents who try to shield their children from the reasonable consequences of their actions?

Two adults are mentioned in this story, Mrs. Baldwin the principal and Mrs. Chavez the teacher/mother. Only one of them is acting like an adult.

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