Haircut Prompts Controversy at Staten Island School

Filed under: In The News

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Teen's half-shaved head gets him sent home from school. Photo: Getty Images.

A Staten Island eighth-grader claims he was sent home from Barnes Intermediate School in Great Kills, N.Y. because he showed up for school with his head half-shaved.

Dennis Reynolds, 14, and his mother, Carmen Reynolds, say that an administrator told the student that his "hair cut wasn't good enough" and called his mother to come and get him. His absence caused him to miss the last review session prior to the state's social studies exam.

The school insists the whole kerfuffle is a misunderstanding, and a spokeswoman from the city's Education Department says the school called Dennis' mom just to see if she was aware of her son's new style. "The principal did not tell the parent to take the child home," said spokeswoman Margie Feinberg. "The parent decided to take him home. He slept at a friend's house and had his head half shaved. If he wanted to go to school like that, he could have."

Carmen Reynolds disagrees, claiming that that she was well aware of her son's new haircut, and that he spent the weekend sleeping in his own bed. "They're lying," she says. "I would never let my child sleep at a friend's house on a school night and why would I take him out of school first thing Monday morning when he has a state test the next day?"

The city Department of Education does have a Student Bill of Rights and Discipline Code that addresses inappropriate attire, but it doesn't say anything at all about guidelines for acceptable hairstyles. Dennis, who allegedly told school authorities that his half-and-half hair wasn't any different than a lip or eyebrow piercing, says an assistant principal kicked him out of his first-period math class.

The boy's mother says that kids do "all kinds of things" to their hair, and that she prefers Dennis' half-shaved head to wearing his pants hanging off his behind, which she "will not tolerate." All she wants, she adds, is for her son to be at school, where he belongs.

Would you believe that the exact same thing happened when I was in high school, back in 1988? One of my classmates showed up sporting a half-shaved head, and he was sent home. Our dean of students told him -- and the rest of us -- that his hairstyle would distract us from our academic pursuits. I think we held a sit-in on his behalf, or something. Next day? Kid showed up with a fully bald pate. Because that was less distracting. Yeah, right.

In this case, something doesn't add up. Did the school send him home? Did the mom yank him out of class? Either way, it's silly to let a teenager with a goofy haircut distract the whole school from their work, no matter who's the culprit. Heck, if goofy haircuts were a distraction, no one who went to school between 1980 and 1990 would have a high-school diploma.

Should schools have a hairstyle code of conduct? Or is this kind of stuff just a distraction?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.