WAFF.com reports that a student from Muscle Shoals High School was sent home on the first day of school because her hair color was deemed to be “too distracting.”
Hayleigh Black, who is sixteen, has been dyeing her hair the same red color for the last three years. Hayleigh is an “A and B” student, a member of the marching band and has represented her school in various school events while donning red hair. Yet, prior to the first day of this school year, no school administrator had said anything to her about the color of her hair. This includes the school district’s superintendent and assistant superintendent who served as administrators at Hayleigh’s school when she first dyed her hair.
Kim Boyd, Hayleigh’s mother, said that she was shocked to get a phone call telling her to pick Hayleigh up from school. Boyd said that nothing was said last year about Hayleigh’s hair color. Boyd said “I understand sending kids home for pink or purple or blue, but Hayleigh is red and he (the principal) argued that it is not a natural shade of red.”
Determining whether or not hair color violates the dress code section of Muscle Shoals High School Student handbook is up to the discretion of the school principal or assistant principal. Dr. Brian Lindsey, Muscle Shoals City Schools Superintendent, responded to the story by saying that he supports the school principal’s decision and that the dress code states that students will not be allowed to attend classes if their attire includes hair which has been dyed a bright or distracting color.
According to Dr. Lindsey, the handbook states that, “Dyed hair will be permitted only if the hair is dyed a natural human color.” He indicated that the high school administration had already sent four students home this school year because of their hair color.
Dr. Lindsey and Hayleigh’s mom have met about the issue and he advised that if Hayleigh wanted to return to school, she would need to dye her hair a darker red or go back to her natural color.
Even though Hayleigh was not happy about having to change her hair color, she wanted to return to school so that she could begin her sophomore year. She tried stripping her hair, to get out all of the color, but it did not work completely. It did, however, work well enough that the administration allowed Hayleigh to return to school.
Jon McGee, the family’s attorney, has now sent a formal letter to the school asking them to reconsider their decision to mark her absent for the day they sent her home. McGee has specifically asked for the absence to be marked as “excused.” The family is concerned that the absence may interfere with possible exam exemptions and other school related issues later in the year.
According to the student handbook, students found to be out of compliance with the dress code will not be allowed to attend classes and will incur an unexcused absence. McGee disputes those policies, saying that school leaders never had an issue with the color of Hayleigh Black’s hair until now.
McGee is requesting that the absence be expunged from Black’s record and that they allow her to change her hair color back to red. If they cannot come to an agreement, McGee said that they have discussed steps to proceed with a federal lawsuit.
Source: WAFF.com, 8/12/14 By Marie Waxel
[Editor’s note: In February, 2012, Legal Clips summarized an article from the New York Daily News, which reported about a student at a Michigan charter school, who is a cancer survivor and was growing out his hair to donate it to Locks of Love was suspended for a week for violating the Madison Academy’s dress code with hair that went past his ears. Locks of Love donates hair to make wigs for cancer patients.]