Confused School Officials React Stupidly
ACLU Defends Student Suspended for Blue Hair
RICHMOND--The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia filed suit today in Richmond Federal District Court seeking reinstatement of a Surry County High School sophomore who was suspended on April 28 for coming to school with his hair dyed blue.(Publisher's note -- two boys killed people at their high school in Colorado. They liked trench coats, so should trench coats be banned? They wore underwear, so should underwear be banned? They had kidneys, so should kidneys be banned? Why are so many school officials bent on making stupid "close the barn door after the horse is out" decisions that violate children's rights, chasing attention away from the real issue, which is not clothes but violence?)Suspension Is Result of Post-Littleton Policy Banning "Unusual Hair Colors"
The ACLU is asking the court to order the Surry County School Board to allow the student to return to school immediately and to provide a means for him to make up work lost as a result of the suspension. The lawsuit also charged that school officials refused to give complete assignments to the student so that he could keep up with his school work from home.
Surry County High School student Kent McNew had been attending school since dying his hair blue last December! According to papers filed with the court, although there have been no incidences of disruption caused by Kent' s hair, Surry County High School officials suspended Kent under a new policy banning unusual hair colors. The policy was apparently adopted by the Surry County School Board in reaction to Governor Jim Gilmore's call for a crackdown on student expression in the wake of the tragic shootings last month at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.
In a letter sent to the parents of Kent McNew on the same day as the suspension, Assistant Superintendent Alvin W. Wilson wrote: "The school administration has ruled that students who wear unusual or unique hair colors, such as blue or green, are to be removed from school until such time as their hair is a normal color. In view of the circumstances that have occurred recently, the governor expressed that unusual activities/appearances should not be ignored."
"Schools should be safe places for everyone," said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. "The ACLU believes it is possible to make policies that effectively address concerns about school safety and still honor students' constitutional rights."
"The Surry County policy, which is completely unrelated to school safety and clearly infringes on students' rights, ignores both of these important guiding principles," he added.
In a letter faxed to Wilson last Thursday, the ACLU asked the school to reinstate Kent voluntarily in order to avoid a lawsuit. Wilson did not reply.
"Irrational policies unrelated to school safety or educational objectives, such as banning unusual hair colors," Willis said in the letter, "create distrust of school officials at the very time we most need to have confidence their leadership."
The ACLU is filing the lawsuit on behalf of Kent McNew and his mother Phyllis Smith. McNew and Smith are represented by ACLU cooperating attorney Victor M. Glasberg of Glasberg & Associates in Alexandria and Richard Ferris, Associate Director of the ACLU of Virginia.
Text of the letter from the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri to School Superintendents can be found at: http://www.aclu.org/news/1999/n052599a.html
Children were shot dead, and the best response they can come up with is an amendment to the school dress code? Tell your views to The Progress Report:
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