Student Hair Color Argument Goes Both Ways

A school sent a 15-year-old student home and banned her from returning until she changed the color of her hair from a purple hue to one that falls within the spectrum of natural hair color.

The student previously dyed her hair reddish hues, which at least fit a school district policy that dyed hair should fall within the “natural spectrum” of hair color. The student’s mother claimed that the change from the girl’s natural brown hair to red helped her “flourish” because she felt “beautiful.” Her mother says dying her daughter’s hair to its natural brown is “not an option.”

Purple, it seems, was just far too much for the school (or, perhaps, her classmates).

This kind of story always gets parents worked up. Part of the upset is summed up with a tired old line: “There ought to be more important things to worry about than a student’s hair color.”

Well, that’s absolutely true. But for me, I mean it from the opposite direction some worked up parents do.

If a student’s purple hair causes a distraction, as school administrators claim, they should have every right to remove that distraction. Even if it means taking away that student’s perceived right to “self-expression” by coloring her hair. School isn’t about “self-expression.” School is about making yourself a productive part of society through education. You can be educated and productive no matter what color your hair is, or, for that matter, whether you have hair at all.

Yes, there are more important things to worry about in our classrooms: how much children learn, how well our education system prepares them to find a job, and how safe they are inside the classroom.

If hair color is so unimportant to the grand scheme of things, the student with the purple hair ought to be able to see that, too. If she’s there to learn, she should be ready to crack open the books with her own natural hair color. Or with a hairdo with adjustments that fall within the school district’s policy.

If hair color truly falls at the bottom of the list of priorities, the parents of the student with the purple hair ought to be able to see that, too. They should be the first ones to say, “You know, they’re right. Daughter, you can wear any color in your hair when you’re out there making your mark on the world, but for now, follow the rules, learn as much as you can, and become that person who’ll change the world.”

And I have to wonder what kind of message we’re sending to our kids these days when we allow them to believe that something that ought to be so “insignificant,” the color of one’s hair, for example, is what defines whether they’re “beautiful.” Or valuable as a person. If someone else suggested to this child that she’d be beautiful if only her hair color were different, wouldn’t women everywhere have something severe to say to that person? (Granted, they should.)

My mom hated and feared school so much that she was physically ill nearly every week of grade school just at the thought of having to go, yet she went because she wasn’t given a choice, and went on to become the first person at her high school to make a perfect, straight-A grade despite all that anxiety. I can only imagine what my mom might have said if I’d decided that I couldn’t go to school or wouldn’t be accepted unless my hair was immediately dyed Chartreuse. It would have been a teaching moment for me, to be sure, even though I probably wouldn’t have liked the lesson. Because back then, what was “more important” was learning.

It’s a shame we’ve somehow lost sight of that.


  1. While your arguement is certainly interesting you sound like elementary school aged children are dyeing their hair. You’d be hard pressed to find an older student truely distracted by something as simple as hair color.
    In a professional work place it is told to the employees before hand which colours are acceptable and which are not. If a school doesn’t outline it in their dress code it is wrong to tell students to redye their hair.
    As for feeling confident, I apologise that you are so old that you haven’t caught up to the modern age where self expression is welcomed by most. My sincerest apologies that you’re too old to want students to have fun with how they look.

    1. If a school dress code says no hair dye, or hair dye of unnatural colors isn’t allowed, they shouldn’t have to spell out every color.

      And what has my age to do with anything? You sound very immature, no matter how old you are, in trying to make that part of the argument. It’s not about self-expression or “having fun.” It’s about following a simple dress code. There is certainly more than one way to self-express or have fun.

  2. Here’s the thing of it: your argument comes across as weak. The real world doesn’t mask you from distractions so regardless of whatever students find it distracting or not they need to find a way to cope. Hair dye isn’t only way self-expression is shown. children have their outfits, their makeup andeventually in the real world people have piercings and tattoos. this is life. You know what I find distracting in school when children sit in the corner and have their own conversations completely ignore teacher, but nothing is ever done about that. They’re plenty of a well-rounded good successful people in the world and dress alternatively. Society is teaching children to sacrifice who you are in order to learn. We have the right to protest and speak about important matters and you’re right. It really shouldn’t be such a big deal! other students shouldn’t be distracted by hair color, color is everywhere; it’s a part of lif, so if your child is one distracted that’s something you need to work on. They need to work on.

    1. Hi, Amber…
      Sorry you feel my argument comes across as “weak.”

      Your argument, on the other hand, seems to overlook a few important points.

      First, while the real world doesn’t entirely mask one from distractions, the purpose of schools is to help children mature to a point that they’re better able to handle distractions. You mature through education, and education, not self-expression is the primary reason one attends school. Society is not at all teaching students to sacrifice who they are; they’re merely challenging students to express who they are within certain confines.

      Second, and I suspect I’ve been out in the real world a lot longer than you have, even in the real world, you might be surprised to learn that real-life employers impose dress codes and standards of appearance upon their ADULT employees. Just because you’re out of school doesn’t mean you get to do anything and everything you want to do at all times.

      To put it another way, all of us, no matter how old we are, face boundaries. That’s an important lesson everyone needs to learn, and the sooner, the better.

  3. This argument is ridiculous. By that logic i guess everything should be banned. I have ADHD. Several students in my class has ADHD. We get distracted by everything. Then i guess we should ban everything huh? As everything distracts us? Also you do realize teens have lives outside of school right? Our lives cannot be dictated by school. If we wanna dye our hair, we will. A stupid rule made by old people who wanna control everything younger generation does will not stop us.

    1. Watch your language. You won’t use the profanity you initially used on my site.

      As for having a life outside of school, there’ll be a time when you graduate and you might experience a time when you’ll need a job. Your employer will be able to enforce a dress code, too. Come at your boss with that attitude and see how long you stay employed.

  4. I recently was threatened suspension and detention for having a very small strip of blue underneath the rest of my hair. I had it for nearly 2 months when they suddenly told me to dye it a natural color. My confidence was boosted during those two months. Tomorrow the students (all natural hair or unnatural) are protesting to let ALL students have the right to dye their hair what ever color they want.

  5. I have recently dye my hair blue and it makes me feel more confident and more myself. I have also been told to dye it back brown by school, but why should I give up my happiness and confidence over something as insignificant as the colour of my hair. I have bought a brown dye and at the thought of putting it on makes me sad, as I love my blue hair. I don’t see my hair as defining whether I am beautiful or not but as something that shows who I am.

    1. Maizie, sorry you’re in the predicament you’re in. But consider this: the color of your hair shouldn’t define who you are. Your own personality shows that, no matter what color your hair is, right?

      1. But it is not how personality shows. It is just about freedom to be able to dye hair. I love my brown short hair but I think adding a splash of light brown looks nice too! I JUST think I look nice. That is why I dyed my hair in the first place.

  6. If your child is “distracted” that easily, they need meds. that is such a cop-out to stop kids from being individuals, finding out who they are, and giving them room to figure it all out.

    1. But is a school’s primary function to educate or to be a space where kids can “find out who they are?” And why is it that hair color is the only way one can make that discovery? That seems like a cop-out, too.

  7. Yes when I was in high school I was kicked out of school because ginger were considered unnatural hair color
    when I go to classes in college Never have that issue until the replacement teacher we he had was Same teacher from that high school I have strange feeling he is the one distracted seeing red hair He asked me to leave my college class so I just left the College campus The day after my friend text me saying I was band from campus Because of my hair color so I never went back to college Now I mostly just do class online. And sometimes never at all
    Iam 26 now I still hear the same issues

  8. Not sure how someone else’s hair color would be a distraction to the other students. That’ just seems so silly.

  9. @Aislínge Kellogg I have also seen some pretty narcissistic men who spend quite a bit of their time in front of mirrors, but I do agree with your point. It can be temporary and should’nt cause this much of a fuss.

  10. I say students should be allowed to have whatever hair color they want in school. It’s important for them to show their creativity and learn to express themselves. I know that it is seen as unprofessional and could cause problems with finding a job, which is why they should be able to at least for as long as they go to school. It is their hair and their money. It would not be a distraction if it was something that regularly happened in schools. It really shouldn’t matter as long as the student’s work is getting completed. Besides, the color will fade over time if it is a bright or neon color. It’s only temporary. I see no harm in it.

  11. @Patrick Like you said with how it could cause problems with finding a job, I think that the students should then be able to get to have unnatural hair color while they are at school. Otherwise, that is like saying they just can’t have it dyed an unnatural hair color at all. Which would be unfair, as it something fun for them and could help their self esteem. As long as they and their peers get the work done, what is the harm in letting them express themselves creatively this way?

  12. As a student who wears a uniform to school and is working to end the “unnatural” hair color ban and my school, I think your argument against hair dye is weak. Hair dye does not distract anyone from learning. That would be like saying one’s backpack is distracting students from learning. Hair dye does not affect anyone’s level of education in the classroom. Students should be allowed to express themselves, especially through something temporary like hair dye. Yes, school is for learning. But, by taking away a student’s right to self expression (without being offensive or vulgar), the school system is teaching students that their opinions do not matter in today’s society. Is that was you really want to teach students? If so, then you must rethink your idea of a good education. Let students express themselves in a reasonable manner.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Catheirn.
      I’m quite sure hair color doesn’t distract you from learning; that’s not to say that such “self-expression” couldn’t be a distraction to someone else, particularly when one is allowed to do whatever they wish in terms of “expressing themselves.”

      To the extent that school is designed to prepare students for the real world, it’s certainly worth noting that some jobs do require a dress code, and depending on which state you live in, people more interested in ignoring an established dress code (or other policies they just happen not to like) could find themselves unemployed.

      When it comes to this preoccupation with hair color, I have to wonder what’s so critically important here. Surely there are more creative, more useful, more beneficial ways one can express themselves. There are always going to be rules in life; rules do not end upon high school graduation. A critical lesson in life that might be pursuing is in learning to work around perceived setbacks to accomplish the bigger goal (in this case, self-expression), in other ways.

  13. Well, Mr Patrick what I had meant was from what I understand of your article. Your saying hair color would limit those around it in their learning by creating a distraction. You did not understand my writing what i meant is with this generation hair color doesn’t matter as much to the kids. Its a way of expressing yourself on the outside with more than just your clothing. Hair color would be more of a distraction to the teachers and adults of the school. If the adults working in that school were mature and “not judge a book by its cover ” maybe it wouldn’t be a distraction. I being a teenager my self at a private school with a strict dress code understand where you are coming from doctor but maybe if teachers didnt judge and bring attention to hair color it wouldnt become a distraction. I have seen student after student get ignored by teachers before because of there appearances in the year I went to public school. By appearance i mean from the color of there skin to there hair and clothing. And for as far as what is acceptable I have the question , why should we be accepted by others before we accpet our selves. Also for you comment about nudist, hair color and being naked are completely different things that may cross 2 different lines. Being naked can lead to tyings such as sex which is making a unfair and incomparable comparison. Hair color only crosses the line created by adults nd the elderly not wanting to change the worlds simplicity and plainess or as they would refer to it as tradition. Also “strawmans argument” I’ve heared of it. Yes, that would go against somethings I had said in my first comment but that would go against your comment about nudist. I dont mean to be rude but doc if you make a point to shouldn’t violate it.

    1. In a perfect world, Belanna, I quite agree with you no one should “judge a book by its cover.” We do not, of course, live in such a world.

      It strikes me as a bit of a sweeping generalization to blame the distraction solely on the “old” people, however. When I was in school — surely a “long” time ago — there were students with me who might have found ourselves distracted by such behavior.

      But if we’re going to run with the generalization that only old people have an issue with this, maybe it’s fair to suggest that their issue might be born out of frustration that the young people who are willing to violate the dress code, and thereby get themselves pulled out of the classroom in a disciplinary action, haven’t seemed to have learned one of life’s most important lessons: that one must choose one’s battles. That simple fact of life would serve those young people well into adulthood. Frankly, once they graduate, their “dream job” may well be at a place with its own set of restrictions; some companies have dress codes as well.

      Back in the “dark ages” when I was in school, there were plenty of students who had already figured that out, apparently, because I don’t recall one student ever being suspended over a dress code violation, despite an occasional instance of someone asked to turn a tshirt inside-out for the day because it was decorated with a message that was an issue.

      Put yourself in the place of those old folks for a moment: they are there to help young people learn and prepare them for the future. And some of those young people seem more interested — to the point of risking disciplinary action — seem more interested in this issue of “self expression” than accomplishing the study of the curriculum the teachers are hired to teach and help get students through. (The teachers themselves, after all, are being graded on how well students learn the material, not on how well students feel they are allowed to express their personality by fighting a dress code.)

      That brings me to another question, however: If the school’s dress code prohibits hair color, for whatever reason, why does hair color have to be the only way some students seem able to express themselves? Aren’t there other ways they can do so? Couldn’t it be a test of creativity to find a way to be their unique person and stay within the guidelines set by the locally-elected school board? Does anyone honestly believe hair color is the sole measure of one’s identity? Or even a particularly important one? You began your comment with the very valid question of judging a book by its cover. It seems to me the hair color argument is all about the cover, too, and not the contents inside the cover.

      1. Personally, I don’t find hair colour to be particularly important, since I’ve been shaving my hair off for 15 years now. However, the hair dye business is a $2 Billion market in the U.S. alone, so obviously someone out there has a differing opinion.

        I will add this, however: teenagers, as has been stated by others already, have a need to express their individuality. This is why they are by far the biggest consumer base for mobile phone cases/covers and ringtones. When you’re a teenager, your parents buy your clothes (for the most part) and the society or government dictates where you spend your days. At that age, expression of individuality _needs_ an audience. So you wrote a beautiful poem? Big whoop. No one cares, except maybe your English teacher. At that age, everything that can be outwardly observed becomes a statement. I suspect that as a girl one’s hair colour might be the thing with the most flexibility in terms of options and level of impact.

  14. Admittedly, I read this article, but zipped past the comments, so as not to have my thinking coloured by those. I’ll read those when I’m finished here.

    This is a completely stupid thing to get upset about or design rules over. I’m sorry, but I don’t consider this to be the school’s place to make rules of this nature. I graduated high school in 1986; in 1983, I’d been very much in a wealthy town that I despised living in, the first punk they had. You can even see my picture on my Facebook page with the purple hair and the White-haired, braided tail I had. My mother might not have appreciated it, but I loved it; and this is the only thing under discussion here. Especially since I hated school as much as I did. The accurate word was loathed, to be honest.

    Then, as now, my hair colour choices make me happy and comfortable, but this is not a distraction for me or anyone else. Certainly not me. I never fuss with it, or carry a brush. I’m not one of those egotistical self-absorbed women who fusses at a stop sign in the rear view mirror. I usually drive with every window open and revel in having my hair blown all over.

    All teenagers, however, are tortured by their looks. I agree with the girl’s mother: The student flourished with the different colour. You might try to do everything under your power if not under the sun, but think back to when you were a teen. How many aspects of the upheaval and changes seemed like they’d all turn out fine when your parents, family members and teachers tried to explain this? Any?

    Exactly. Let the teens shaved, dye or whatever to their hair. THAT, at least, will grow back.

  15. Its not that we teens or children value hair color as much to see us only beautiful in that way its that its an expression of who we are. A simple hair color is enough to distract students as much as the newest shoes, or shirt. Its not permanent and it cant make some people feel beautiful. Its not that we value following the crowd at all. Every person has that one thing that makes them feel beautiful. Ms Rumer Willis said dancing made her feel beautiful. Whether its hair color, outfit, or jewlry we all have that one thing. I see things such a hair color and tattoos can resort to bad things but not always. I myself as a teen don’t understand why adults and the elderly dont like this and see unique hair color as a bad thing. So Mr. Patrick please explain this to me along with how hair color can limit your grades in school and you said in your article

    1. Let me explain what a “Strawman argument” is: it’s a tactic that’s designed to make light of a person’s argument by attempting to subtly change the argument from what it actually is to something so outrageous that a reasonable person likely would never agree with it. When you claim I said “hair color can limit your grades in school,” that sounds a lot like a strawman to me, since I never said that.

      Your hair color doesn’t change how much you learn or whether your brain can process what you learn. I never said otherwise.

      Literally, however, I suppose that a hair color that falls OUTSIDE of a school’s dress code, that a student is UNWILLING to remedy, might INDIRECTLY limit that student’s grades to the extent it keeps them OUT of school and, thereby, out of the instruction they would otherwise be receiving if they had simply chosen to comply with the dress code.

      It comes down to a question of where the line is for “acceptable” distraction. Sure, shoes may be a distraction for some people, but it’s easy to sit in a room full of people behind individual desks and not look at (or even see) someone’s footwear. It’s quite significantly less simple to sit in a room full of people and not see a dynamic hair color.

      As for your point that hair color might help make someone feel beautiful, which I still think is far less important in the grand scheme of things than actually learning, which is why students should be in school to begin with, I would offer this: Some people — nudists in particular — might be of the mindset they are most beautiful when they are not covered with clothes. Do you think students who feel that way should be allowed to come to school naked?

    2. Let me first say that I’m a pretty strict mom. My daughter is ten and not allowed to wear short shorts, tops that show her mid drift or spaghetti straps. But even I find the no hair dying ridiculous. I actually used it as a reward for my daughter getting all As. She begged for the teal ombré style and I let her get it because she had excellent grades. People need to lighten up and focus on what’s really important. That’s integrity, treating people kindly, keeping your word, trying your best at everything you do, being honest and the list goes on on. But what color your hair is not on that list.

  16. So I’m a student in this exact situation. I had my hair dyed a bright purple colour (you could not pass it off as anything but purple) and no one said anything. At all. Now that i’ve dyed my hair ginger (by accident but still a real, proper ginger colour) all the teachers are flipping out over it. I am a somewhat “above average” student that respects the teachers and normally doesn’t argue or talk back to the teachers, but this time, I’m taking a stand. Why should the fact that I changed my hair colour (to something that fits well within the ‘natural colour spectrum’) get me suspended from school?

    1. If your new hair color does fall in the “natural color spectrum,” it shouldn’t be an issue in my book. And if there is no restriction in the school’s dress code that mentions changing hair color, it shouldn’t be an issue at all.

      Does your school’s dress code address hair color at all?

  17. What fails to be addressed is the fact that her hair color is still her hair outside of school, afterschool hours and on the weekends. This rule restricts how she is allowed to look outside of school as well which is completely unfair and non- justifiable. Let’s be honest, a “crazy” hair color is just as “distracting” as a bright neon outfit, or even a new pair of nice shoes to the right crowd. With this being said, if a student fails a text or even a class because of a “distracting” hair color (which doesn’t happen) they deserve to fail, honestly. What’s distracting is phones ringing, curse words being spat every five seconds. Handle that before you infringe on someone’s right to self express.
    ~ A freshman student taking honors and college classes with a GPA of 3.8 whose education is being threatened due to a narrow minded, out of date rule.

    1. [Editor’s Note: Since this person was not willing to provide even a first name, choosing instead to leave a line of hyphens, and did not respond to an email request for a name to use, I replaced the hyphens with “Doe.”]

      When I was working, my sister who was learning how to cut hair at that time, cut mine into the mullet style because that’s all they taught her at school that time since that was the style at the time. However, my bosses at work (a grocery store I had bben working at) immediately had a fit over it and ordered me to cut it into a different style immediately or else I would be permanently fired. So I ended up having to get it immediately cut again by someone else.

      I don’t like mullets for myself anyway. It’s not my style.
      But as someone else on here basically said, that’s also saying that I can’t have the hairstyle I want outside of work hours since it also affects how I look during the hours I wasn’t working. What gives them the right to tell me how I can and can not look while I’m not at work???

      Some other people working at the store had way longer than hair me, so that wasn’t the issue. Some other people working at the store had way shorter hair than me, so that wasn’t the issue, either.

      The issue was the way it was styled. They even said so.

      Just because they theirselves did not like that particular hairstyle on me.

      By the way, some other people working at the store did have mullets also, and they never said anything to them. They liked the mullet hairstyle on those people, but did not like the mullet hairstyle on me because it was a mullet hairstyle on me.

      so what gives them the right to do this? and what gives them the right to decide how I can and can not look while I’m not at work?????

      1. Hi, “Doe,” Since you did not respond to an email request to provide a name, which is required in the rules of the blog, I’ve given you one.

        As to your question about what gives them the “right” to decide to have a dress code, the SIMPLE answer is that it’s the fact that they sign your paycheck. A business has a right to set a dress code. They have an obligation to enforce it fairly, but it’s their right to set one. As an employee, it’s your right to follow it or to not follow it and risk disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

  18. DianaCT patricksplaceImportant points here, Diana.
    It may well be that some restrictions like these are done to keep the adults from getting distracted as much as the students. 
    The lesson students SHOULD learn here is that they will always be subject to certain expectations, right or wrong, based on what their bosses decide is acceptable. In school, boycotting those rules gets you suspended or placed in detention. In the workplace, it can get you fired. 
    Bullying is the real problem, you’re right. Bullies thrive on people who are different in a way the bully deems important. This strikes me as an administration erring on the side of caution, but I may be wrong. If a bully is going pick on someone, he’ll use any aspect of that person’s appearance or personality. It could be argued that certain hair color restrictions seek to eliminate a few of those “easy targets” for a bullying victim.

  19. patricksplacePatrick, one thing that we as adults have to remember is
    what we find as distracting kids do not. Having rules the do not reflect what
    really do create distracts does more harm than good. When I was an intern a
    couple of years ago and we working with high school students I found the
    majority of the students accepting of diversity. What is way more disruptive in
    school are the bullies who pick on people who are different.
    A student with “pink” hair is not the problem. It is the
    person who is doing the bullying. Most students do not care what the color of a persons hair.

    1. [Editor’s Note: Since this person was not willing to provide even a first name, choosing instead to leave a line of hyphens, and did not respond to an email request for a name to use, I replaced the hyphens with “Doe.” I also removed nearly 400 (yes, really) thoroughly unnecessary question marks left at the end of the last question.]

      actually, most of the bullying over hair color in schools is the teachers, principal, vice principal, rest of the school staff and the school board all bullying naturally redheaded students and ordering them to dye their natural “unnatural hair color” of red to a unnatural “natural color of black, brown, or blonde” or else get either suspended, expelled from schol, or in-school detention for it, even though the written school rules specifically say “students are not allowed to dye their hair at all. All students’ hair MUST be their own natural color. No exceptions allowed”.

      How is that even fair to the naturally redheaded students????? Clue: It’s NOT, despite the public schools saying it is.

      What the schools are really saying by doing it (though they will deny that they are really saying it by doing it) is that naturally redheaded kids are NOT allowed to look like their natural selves anywhere at all, not even outside of school hours, off of school property. Not even at home. They MUST have their hair dyed an unnatural color other than their own at ALL times or else get suspended, expelled, or in-school detention.

      One set of rules for all the other kids and students.

      A completely different set of rules for naturally redheaded kids.

      even though the public schools falsely and fraudently claim that it’s the same set of rules for both groups of kids they’re following.

      If the comics and cartoons and cartoon movie were accurate to today’s public schools, Charlie Brown would have never ever gotten to meet the little naturally red-headed girl because she would have been suspended or expelled from school.

      or forced to dye her hair an unnatural color by the school staff even though the written rules say that that is NOT allowed and is a suspendable offense.

      So why are all these school staff people in a bunch of public schools ordering naturally red-headed kids to violate and break the written school rules or else get either suspended, expelled, or in-school detention if they obey the written school rules?

  20. @Miss Y No reason to apologize for disagreeing here. 🙂 
    You make an excellent point that what one person finds distracting isn’t distracting to someone else. But I also believe that rules that help MORE people focus will always be more important than students being allowed to “express themselves” in ANY way they choose. There’s nothing wrong with a school trying to create and enforce some sense of order because motive isn’t to stifle creativity but rather to help students find that focus by creating an atmosphere where there are fewer distractions to begin with. 
    Part of focusing on education, in my book, is a certain amount of control and “containment” for students that are too disruptive and thereby keep others from being able to focus. These days, with so much technology, it has never been harder to focus, particularly for our young people.
    That’s why some schools go so far as to have uniforms, so that they can eliminate the distractions that an open dress code might make possible. For me, a dress code is far less “controlling” than uniforms are.
    And once these students become adults, it will have been good for them to learn that even in the workplace, there are dress codes and restrictions from doing or saying anything you want in certain areas.

  21. I’m sorry, I disagree. I’ve suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) for my entire life. Many things distract me: movement, someone’s hair colour, the way a girl did her makeup that day or even they way a teacher inflects their words. It is no one’s job but mine to stay focused. What one person finds distracting another does not. Public schools must abide by the constitution, which does include the right to freedom of expression. Schools should concentrate on eduction, and not on how to control and contain those who want it.

  22. You are so right, Patrick. What in the world has our society come to. Kids do not need to “express” themselves, they need to go to school to learn, and learn how to follow some basic rules. When the get of school, and into the real world, they will have bigger rules to follow, with much more severe consequences. Parents need to back the school’s decisions and help teach their children how to follow rules and have respect for those rules.

  23. I’m wondering what difference it makes what color her hair is. She’s there to learn. They’re there to educate her. Is there any proof that her hair caused a distraction? I get sick of us attempting to shove kids into certain molds. I pity the school official who tries to pull this crap with my kiddos.

    1. [Editor’s Note: Since this person was not willing to provide even a first name, choosing instead to leave a line of hyphens, and did not respond to an email request for a name to use, I replaced the hyphens with “Doe.”]

      I have been suspended from public school before because of the natural way I look. Something that I can’t help. The bullying idiots running the school thought I had applied something that I have never ever had and never will that was written in the school rules as not being allowed to have and not being allowed to have applied.

      Or else they knew that was the way I naturally looked, and knew couldn’t be changed, and decided to suspend me for it anyways, which still makes them bullies and idiots.

  24. A very similar thing happened to my son ten years ago when he dyed his shaggy blond hair cotton-candy pink (to go with his punk band). Nowhere in the school’s (or the district’s) code of conduct was hair color listed as an infraction. He was suspended from school – which went on his permanent record as a disciplinary infraction – despite being a straight A and otherwise compliant student. We both learned quite a lot from that experience about what was actually valued at that school: appearance, not substance or worth. The tragic thing about it all? I’m a career educator, and everything I’d ever taught my son about learning and education and the value of critical thinking was suddenly challenged in his eyes due to something as superficial as appearance. Where is he today? He’s a philosophy major at USC, soon to graduate magna cum laude. And he’s in two local well-known punk bands. I am unbelievably proud of him.
    Daily, I fight a battle with my daughter over her school uniform. She attends a public school where the uniforms are not optional but required. We are zoned for this school, and I believe in public education, so I refuse to simply move her to another school. Appearance, it seems – from uniforms to performance on standardized test scores – is more highly valued by our public/parents than actual learning and critical thinking skills. Somehow we’ve come to equate appearance with substance. Any educator will tell you that sometimes appearance IS reality (high test scores = quality instruction and learning), but often the two do not necessarily go hand in hand. Am I satisfied with her education? Yes. She’s learned because of some of her teachers, and she’s learned in spite of other teachers.
    I don’t know how much longer I’ll be in education. I’m a lone voice crying in the wilderness, clearly out of step with the demands of the public. I hope we’re all ready to reap what we sow.

    1. LauSmith If there are no specific rules about what is and isn’t allowed, then I think that’s a different situation. In this case, there’s an existing code that even allows students to alter their hair color, as long as it isn’t what some might call “too outlandish.” 
      Unfortunately, in our society, appearance DOES matter. It matters too much, to be sure, but it matters. This is a lesson, I’m afraid, everyone learns at some point, whether it’s in school or in the real world.

  25. I know dozens of kids with hair of all colors, many them are
    on the honor roll and have gone on to college. It only becomes a distraction
    when the adults make it one.
    My internship was at a family and youth service agency and
    one of the kids who came there to help out had a rainbow Mohawk, he graduated and
    when on to college to be a graphic arts designer. I saw him last year and he had
    grown out of his Mohawk days.

    1. DianaCT For some students, it may well be a distraction. It may even encourage others to bully them because they’re intentionally trying to be different. I went to school with a guy who dressed like he was a member of Duran Duran. He was bullied and shunned unmercifully and to this day, some 25 years later, he’s still bitter about it.
      For every student who might feel a benefit (or a parent who feels their child benefits) from such unique self-expression, I worry about those who don’t…and who grow up full of resentment for the rest of their lives.
      At what point is it acceptable to tell students that they need to focus on learning, not on hairstyle or fashion?

      1. Patrick, to tweens and teens, self-expression is everything! The sun, the moon, the stars; all things are meaningless to most evryone. I was not at different. I tell you honestly, too, I needed that. I needed the indivulity, that uniqueness to survive was one of the worse experiences of my life. Five years of it.

        The MOMENT I graduate was hands Hanse the best. I did not even go t graduating.

        No regrets.

  26. How do they prove causes a distraction? I have purple in my hair. Never have I’ve been told my hair is a distraction. I feel more and more school is all about teaching people to be good corporate cogs. They should never express themselves outside “the normal” hues of what is acceptable. Just do what you are told, memorize your lessons, and for pity’s sake don’t think. Don’t standout. It’s just like the corporate world really. If purple hair is distracting other kids from learning, I’d say that teachers are not engaging students in the material. Maybe work on student engagement instead of enforcing rules that quash creativity and self-expression. This is a thought provoking piece, but I just don’t agree that being like everyone else really facilitates learning.

    1. Michelle_Mazur But to one degree or another, isn’t that the expectation — right or wrong — that most of us will face in the “real” world? Should a school not reserve the right to set SOME kind of limits of what is acceptable?
      Some schools require a strict uniform policy; isn’t it better to allow them wider latitude in their appearance as long as there are clearly defined limits rather than forcing everyone to look EXACTLY the same?

  27. But – playing devil’s advocate here – wouldn’t the “distraction” caused by a students unusual hair color be temporary?  I’m not sure that there wouldn’t be much more of a distraction than would be caused by a pale blonde girl suddenly dying her hair black and going goth.  Once folks had seen the change, it would quickly become commonplace.  
    When I was in middle school, the district got a deal on some paint and painted some of our classrooms a fluorescent lime green over the summer.  For the first few days the walls distracted me so much that I was unable to concentrate. It was almost as if they buzzed, I remember thinking.  Once I became used to seeing it, it was no longer a problem.  Some of our parents complained, but the color remained and I can’t say that it was a problem.  A student with purple hair would certainly be much less of a distraction than lime green walls, in my opinion, so I don’t think she should be made to change her hair color.
    I should point out that if the student wanted to create waves and do something different – and surely that was part of dying her hair purple – she certainly accomplished that, now didn’t she?  She learned that sometimes being different causes others to become uncomfortable and want to change you back to being like everyone else.  That’s kind of sad, really.  I’m not sure that was what the school intended to teach or perhaps it was. I’m not saying that falling within the norms that society has created is always a bad thing but I have to wonder if we shouldn’t focus on curbing more harmful behavior rather than something like one’s hair color.

    1. Cathryn (aka Strange) Fair enough…but let me ask this: where do we draw the line? For some students, being “too” different leads to bullying, which is itself “harmful.” No matter where that line occurs, won’t someone have a problem with it?

      1. patricksplace Cathryn (aka Strange) I agree with you that we need to do what we can to stop bullying behavior.  Wouldn’t a better solution be to teach children that there isn’t anything wrong with being different and to accept people for who they are?  I think that would end bullying a lot quicker than teaching children to try not to be too different to avoid being targeted.  After all, a child confined to a wheelchair or with a physical disability has no choice but to appear quite different from his/her classmates, right?

        1. Cathryn (aka Strange)patricksplaceExactly Cathryn, we need to teach our children that diversity is OK. We have to teach that we have to get along with who are different whether it is the color of their hair or their gender identity or their sexual orientation or whatever.
          The last couple of weeks I have been working on a Power Point presentation for a workshop that I’m giving next month at a conference. The workshop is going to be about school policies on diversity and how to write an inclusive policy.

      2. patricksplace Cathryn (aka Strange) I don’t think a child should be discouraged to be themselves because they might get bullied for it, but to be themselves in spite of it. The approach to dealing with bullies should be to teach kids not to bully others, and not teach them how to avoid being noticed by being different. Besides, isn’t that what teenagers have done since time immemorial, tried to distinguish themselves as individuals (even if they do so by defining their individuality by the standards of some subculture).
        As for the “distraction” argument, I don’t really buy that at all. Purple hair is very common among the teens now. We had goths and emos and whathaveyous when I went to school, and they certainly weren’t keeping us from hitting the books – there were plenty of other things keeping us occupied, such as the opposite sex. Their hair colour was of no distinction.
        Unfortunately, if the school’s draconian code insists on “natural hair colour” – of all things to worry about – then the student and her mother don’t really have a leg to stand on, legally. Switch to a private school and check their dress code first. It is a shame that individuality is so unappreciated these days, when it is precisely the most individualistic persons who tend to end up shaping our world the most.

      3. Oh, Patrick!

        No, no, no, no. Wanting to immerse oneself in nonconformity is normal and very much part and parcel of geeing a child/teenager.there is no harm in it and no more, for example condones or encourage a violent or abusive response then a sensually dreffed woman invites sexual assult.

        Bullying is absolutely not ingrained vehaviour when motivated by prejudice. It is a learned reaction. And a very poor response to any situation.

    2. [Editor’s Note: Since this person was not willing to provide even a first name, choosing instead to leave a line of hyphens, and did not respond to an email request for a name to use, I replaced the hyphens with “Doe.”]

      actually, if you read the school rules posted by one of the posters above (or was it in the article), you’ll see that school rules at that particular school actually prevent students from changing back to their natural hair color during the school year.

      just because it’s “a sudden change”

      1. Where does it actually say that in the rules? I think it would be safe to assume — and rather absurd to argue to the contrary — that if a school prohibited a sudden change, that it wouldn’t allow you to correct the violation.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.