Monday, January 28, 2008

Long Hair Discrimination case in Texas - 4 suspended

Seems there is something about long hair that riles schools in Texas as well as Northern Ireland.
I note that Frontiersman Davy Crockett was one of the heroes of the Alamo who had long hair, as indeed did George Washington. So both of those men would be suspended in that particular Texas school if they were there today. Below we have a series of articles on a longstanding row.

Long-haired teen says trim not likely

E. Texas district warned him he risks not graduating if it's not cut
12:00 AM CST on Tuesday, January 8, 2008
By MATTHEW HAAG / The Dallas Morning News

KERENS, Texas – Matthew Lopez-Widish hasn't cut his curly brown hair in four years, and he doesn't plan to despite an ultimatum from high school administrators.

Matthew Lopez-Widish was told by Kerens officials to cut his hair before returning to classes, per the policy that forbids male students from having hair that extends past the collar.

A few days before Christmas break at Kerens High School, about 15 miles east of Corsicana in a tiny town known as the birthplace of Big Tex, the straight-A student and at least four other students were called into the principal's office.

Cut your hair by the time you return to school in January or be sent to alternative school, be removed from all extracurricular activities and risk not graduating, Matthew said the principal and assistant principal told him.

Classes in the Kerens district resume today.

"I told them that I'm not going to cut my hair," said Matthew, 18, whose hair, when uncurled, reaches the middle of his back. "It may seem kind of stubborn, but to me, it's part of who I am."

Matthew says that his rights are being stripped and that he's going to take his concerns to the school board meeting Monday.

Making his case

"I just want the school board to notice that just because I have long hair doesn't mean I'm going to quit learning or obstructing people from learning," Matthew said.

Downtown Kerens consists of a three-block strip of red brick road and mostly vacant or dilapidated one-story storefronts. About a mile to the south is the school district's campus, which houses all grade levels.

During school board meetings last fall, parents complained about recurring instances of students disobeying the hair code in the student handbook. Apparently, some long-haired boys were not doing a good enough job keeping their hair from falling below their shirt collar or from covering their ears.

The hair policy for male students at Kerens High is straightforward: No hair past the collar, no hair below the eyebrows, hair can't extend ½ inch over the ears, and ponytails can be no longer than a half-inch. The student dress code does not mention hair length for female students.

By December, Superintendent Kevin Stanford came up with a solution to repeated complaints about hair length: All high school males with long hair must get haircuts.

"What happened was that a number of male students would come in with it down, and they would play games and not have it up when they should have," said Mr. Stanford, whose grayish hair is cut close to the scalp. "The students had a chance to follow the rules, and they didn't."

Too many students would be on campus before or after school with their long hair let down in violation of school policy, Mr. Stanford said.

"The problem is that they don't consistently comply with the policy," he said, though he's never seen Matthew disobey the dress code rules.

To meet the dress code standards, Matthew's mom braids his hair and then tucks the braids to shorten them and keep them off his collar. He slicks back his hair on the top to keep it out of his face and from covering his ears. After the five-minute process is over, it's hard to tell that his hair is nearly 2 feet long, Matthew said.

His friend Wesley Bunch, who was also called into the principal's office, puts his much shorter blond hair in a ponytail and wears a headband to keep it out of his face.

Matthew's mom, Linda Lopez, doesn't buy the superintendent's reasoning that students didn't comply. She believes that the school board is against males having long hair, which she says is utterly foolish.

"It's not the '60s anymore. They aren't hippies, and they aren't radical anti-war tree huggers," she said.

Schools' right

Jim Walsh, a school law expert in Austin, said that school districts have the legal right to mandate hair and dress codes. Several cases, including one in the 1990s from Bastrop ISD that reached the Texas Supreme Court, have been decided in favor of the school districts.

"The courts generally affirm these standards," Mr. Walsh said.

Some challenges made on the basis of religious discrimination have been successful.

If Matthew is sent to alternative school, he could risk losing his extracurricular activities. His participation in a work program allows him to leave school early to go to his job as a cashier at a Jack in the Box near Corsicana, where he works upward of 30 hours a week.

But more important, Matthew said, he would be removed from One-Act Play, the UIL-sponsored theater contest that begins the first day back from the holiday break.

"That's one thing that I'd hate to lose," said Matthew, who played a villain in a recent community play.

His friend Wesley, is in the same situation. If he doesn't cut his hair, he will be removed from the school's skateboarding team.

But neither is budging.

Wesley and Matthew said the administration can send them to alternative school. And if that happens, Mrs. Lopez said, she'd look into removing her son from the district.

"It's just a kid with long hair," she said. "It doesn't seem like a punishment that he deserves."

Suspended KHS student likely to attend Trinidad

January 11, 2008 01:44 am

Suspended KHS student likely to attend Trinidad

By Janet Jacobs

Two of the four boys suspended from Kerens High School Tuesday have returned to classes, while two others are holding firm to their long locks.

A disciplinary hearing was conducted Thursday afternoon for Matthew Lopez-Widish, a senior, who has been growing his hair since eighth grade. He moved to the Kerens district in the fall of 2006, and was allowed to keep his long hair because he was willing to bind his hair up. Three other boys were also allowed to keep long hair by following the same procedure.

However, some of the boys weren’t consistent in following the rules, and sometimes had to be asked to go pull back their hair, leading to complaints from teachers and parents, according to Superintendent Kevin Stanford.

In December, the school district told the boys they had to cut their hair or they wouldn’t be allowed back in school following the Christmas break.

On Tuesday, the hammer fell in the form of suspensions.

Following haircuts, Wesley Bunch and Andy Coronado returned to school.

“We initially suspended four students. Two of the four have returned to the classsroom,” Stanford confirmed.

Lopez-Widish and Derek Divetta remained out of school. Both want to transfer to the Trinidad school district, which is less than 10 miles east on Texas Highway 31.

However, before they can transfer, the students have to complete their punishments in Kerens, first. The punishments handed down in Thursday’s conference with school officials was not made public. Trinidad’s dress code only calls for a student’s hair to be neat and clean, but doesn’t specify a length, Lopez said.

In a visit to the Daily Sun offices Thursday, Linda Lopez said the family has been contacted by representatives of the “Dr. Phil” television show, adding to the nation-wide attention the incident has attracted. Lopez-Widish also was scheduled to appear on Thursday’s “CBS Early Show” to discuss his experiences.

Parent airs concerns over KISD hair policy
January 15, 2008
By Loyd Cook
KERENS — One more parent is complaining about an offspring being moved off campus to an alternative learning center, all because of the length of the student’s hair.

Walter King, the stepfather of Kerens ISD middle school student Emilio Compoz, said getting a “bad mark on his record” for liking to wear his hair long is unfair.

“They say (the long hair) is a distraction,” King said. “It’s not a distraction to the kids.”

“I think it’s nice everyone stood up and said the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag,” he added, referencing how the KISD Board of Trustees began its meeting. “That’s freedom. But what about his freedom?”

King was speaking during the portion of the KISD board meeting set aside for public forum. Since the topic he spoke on was not an agenda item, the board could take no action in response, board president Kenny Berry said.

Two high school teens also cited for their long hair have gotten it cut and returned to classes. Another, Matthew Lopez-Widish, had a disciplinary hearing Thursday, eventually agreeing to serve five days in the KISD Alternative Learning Center before transferring out and enrolling in Trinidad’s public school district.

Compoz will remain in the Alternative Learning Center until his family makes a decision on what they wish to do. Kerens superintendent Kevin Stanford said King was welcome to pick up a complaint form in his office Tuesday, and meet with him about the issue.

In an agenda item, trustees adopted a policy covering sex offenders visitation, approving the second option of ones presented to them at a meeting last month.

The policy forbids any person from entering or being present on any school district property if he or she is required to register as a sex offender, regardless of the age of the victim.


mepsipax said...

I am fighting this now in my sons district. Stupid archaic rules.

Anonymous said...

I wish Stanford was as determined and concerned about Kerens ISD Bullying and asbestos issues as he is about hair stlyes.