Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The School Has No Business Making Such Rules

His hair is satisfactory enough, and not a distraction, such that he can attend school, but it's too out of control for him to play basketball? Really?

The parents of a former Greensburg Junior High basketball player are asking a federal court to declare the team's haircut policy unconstitutional.

In a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, Patrick and Melissa Hayden say team rules governing the length of players' hair violate their son's right to wear his hair the way he wants and also treat male and female athletes differently because female players don't have to adhere to the same guidelines.

Their 14-year-old son, identified as A.H. in the lawsuit, was kicked off the team this fall after he refused to cut his hair to comply with team rules, which require players' hair to be above their eyebrows, collars and ears.

The Haydens said in the lawsuit that they met with the basketball coach and school officials, but no one would change the policy. So they sued.

"What they're trying to do here is teach (their son) a life lesson, which simply is that you fight for what's right," said Ron Frazier, the Haydens' attorney. "This is classic David versus Goliath, and they want their son to understand that."

The Haydens are asking the court to force the schools to stop enforcing the team's haircut policy and rule that it's unconstitutional, as well as award any necessary damages to the family.

But the school district claims the policy didn't violate the boy's rights, partly because participating in extracurricular activities is a privilege, not a right.

In California, sports and cheerleading are considered integral enough to the school experience that they fall under the state constitution's requirement for a free education--meaning that we can't charge for participation in such activities. In California, at least, such participation is closer to a right than to a privilege. Of course, it may be different in Indiana.

Let's assume for a moment that it doesn't violate the student's so-called right to have long hair. What possible legitimate reason could there be for this rule? It's stupid, it's a power thing, and it needs to go away--the sooner, the better.


Pomoprophet said...

Sports should not be considered a right. And if they need to be cut from budgets, so be it. If students want to participate they should follow the rules. This lawsuit is not teaching their child to fight for whats right, its teaching their child that if you don't get your way, sue until you do.

Do you think the hair policy at westpoint is stupid and a power thing too?

Anonymous said...

The rule sound silly to me, too, but to take a devil's advocate position ...

(1) I think the parents are probably wrong that the student has a constitutional "right" to wear his hair the way he wants and still be on the team. A constitutional right to play basketball with long hair? Really? I don't think the kid has a constitutional right to be on the basketball team at all ...

(2) This sort of thing *isn't* unheard of in other sporting venues ... the NY Yankees seem to have some sort of team policy on beards.

(3) I can actually see (if I squint a bit) a point to this. The point being that you are supposed to be part of a team, and submerge (at least a bit) your "you-ness" in the team "we-ness." Hair length isn't a bad way to do this (maybe), assuming that you want to do this. Maybe one could argue that if you aren't willing to cut your hair (a bit ... we aren't talking crew cut here) to be on the team, then you aren't really with the program.

BYU (as an example) has behavior codes that I find a bit excessive. But I don't *have* to go to BYU (and, yes, BYU is private, etc.). This seems kinda similar here.

Question: If the kid wins this case, and doesn't make the team next year, them what?

-Mark Roulo

Darren said...

I was waiting for someone to bring up the military's policy, but I think we can all agree that's a red herring, no?

I'll agree he doesn't have a "constitutional right" to play on the school team. On the other hand, the school (team) has no legitimate authority to tell him how to wear his hair as long as it's not a distraction in the learning environment.

Pomoprophet said...

no. Its another example of a dress code relating to the hair that has no real value to the environment. But I would argue that uniformity and following the chain of command are vital for unity and a sense of cohesion. Be it the military or a middle school sports team.

Darren said...

I would argue that there are some superficial similarities, but the environments are different enough to explain the different standards between the two.

Doug said...

John Wooden had the same policy at UCLA in the 70's. The story goes that Bill Walton said "Coach, I'm not shavng my beard, it's my right" so Wooden said, "I admire those that stick to their beliefs. We'll miss you Bill" and so Walton shaved. I agree with Mark R that it is about "team" and not "I". The thing is, coaches decide who plays (unless that Jr. High league has playing time rules, but I digress). He can be on the team. He just won't play. Instilling discipline at an early age is never a bad thing. Teaching people to "fight rules you don't agree with" is not the right message to teach a Jr. High kid.

Darren said...

A public K-12 school has no business making such a rule. Other arguments pale to that overarching fact.

maxutils said...

Ditto dress codes.

Darren said...

Any such rule must be narrowly tailored to achieve some legitimate educational goal. Some dress code requirements would pass such muster, some would not.