When I first saw this story, I assumed the girl had surprised teachers and faculty with some new exotic color of her hair. It bothered me that she simply looked like a redhead, not some impossible purple- or green-headed mutation.
Is red hair distracting?
But it turns out that she has attended school with this same hair color for years! The Huffington Post reports,
Hayleigh Black was all ready to start the new school year in her homeroom class last week. But before she could even get there, the 16-year-old high school student was told to go home – all because of her “distracting” hair color.
According to WAFF-TV, school officials at Muscle Shoals High School in Alabama told Black, whose hair is dyed red, that she wouldn’t be able to attend classes unless her hair was of a more “natural” shade.
But Black says she was baffled by the sudden censure, since her hair has been the same shade of red for three years and no one has said anything about it until now.
Here is what seems to have happened. Someone sent two other girls away because they had some truly unnatural shade of hair color. (I’m not saying this was a good idea. It is just what happened.) So, once they had done that, since the school rule didn’t say anything about a natural shade, only a “distractive color,” they realized the other students might complain about inconsistency in how the rule was applied. So, for the first time, they realized Black’s hair was “a problem.” Rather than defend the decision to only worry about other shades, they decided they would rather defend a sudden change of policy toward Black. (Perhaps someone at the school believes that global warming now makes red hair unnatural.)
I realize teachers want order and decorum in school, but this really seems over the top—virtually a female version of the kind of pressure that boys face for not being properly domestic. Girls like to dye their hair. Some like to have bright colors. Is it really self-evident that a good education means prohibiting the exercise of such a desire? Thanks to taxation that supports public schools, and the truancy laws and child labor laws, it is not as if the students have much choice but to attend. (Though, frankly, if you are considering homeschooling, this would be another reason to do it). So they are pressured to attend an institution that controls their hair color.
It might be appropriate to tell a child not to dye her hair. But shouldn’t that be a parent’s decision, rather than a public bureaucrat’s?