It’s our right to flaunt the rules. Constitution says so!

Did you happen to see this article on November 12?

Ohio Middle School Student Dustin Reader suspended for Cincinnati Bengals haircut



Thursday, November 12th 2009, 2:34 PM

Dustin Reader gets suspended from his Ohio middle school for his Bengals-themed haircut.

Dustin Reader gets suspended from his Ohio middle school for his Bengals-themed haircut.

Hair today, suspended tomorrow.

A young Cincinnati Bengals’ fan got flagged for a personal conduct penalty after showing up at his school in southwest Ohio with the NFL team’s stripes and a big “B” cut into his hair to celebrate the team’s surprising 6-2 start.

Eighth-grader Dustin Reader received in-school suspension at Hamilton’s Garfield Middle School for his unique display of team pride.

The school insists the haircut is a violation of its code of conduct, which prohibits “extreme and distracting haircuts and hairstyles.”

Dustin’s parents told the Hamilton Journal News in an article posted Thursday on its Web site that they knew about the middle school’s policy, but didn’t think their son’s haircut crossed the line.

“He’s had designs on his head before, and no one said anything,” Dustin’s mother, Tiny Wanamaker, told the newspaper.

His father, James Reader, was quoted in the article as saying: “This is a way for him to express pride in the Bengals putting up a winning season. It’s not racist, not drug-related, not gang-related or anything like that. It’s about football.”

Dustin also had his hair colored to look like the Bengals’ orange-and-black helmet for last Sunday’s game, but his parents said the color was washed out before he showed up for school on Monday morning.

School officials say he can’t return to class – although he remains in school studying, away from other students – until his hair grows back or he opts for a different cut, but his mother says not so fast.

“We’re not going to fix it,” Wanamaker told the Journal News. “He’s still going to school, and I’m proud of him for that.”

Perhaps I’m “old fashioned” and “out of date”. I’m way over thirty so maybe like we felt in the 60s, I’m not to be trusted. That being said, I think the general public has finally paid enough attention in school to learn there is something called the Constitution, and, by gum, it says I have the right to let my kid do anything in the world he wants ’cause it says so right here in this here paper! I got rights!

I said the “general public” because this hair style would not be tolerated in a private or parochial school. They are still able to establish and maintain some sense of rules and order in their classrooms. Students and parents know what is expected of them, and they agree to those expectations.

Not so the parents of some of the public school students. There are millions of parents and students in public schools that still have a sense of decorum. Those are not the ones to whom I’m referring today.

These parents in Ohio knew the rules of the school about haircuts. They say that their son’s cut is not about gangs or drugs or race. It’s about football for gosh sakes. Evidently they have not seen the change in temperaments lately among football fans. Fans are getting rowdier, rougher, and more belligerent in their support of their teams. They are taking more emotional ownership of those players on the field. Middle school boys are fast learners when it comes to copying the behaviors of adult fans. Monkey see…monkey do!

Multiply the hormonal control (or lack of it)  of the fans by ten and you have a middle schooler. If there is a dress code that says tee shirts with logos can’t be worn, why would the parents think it was perfectly OK to wear the logo on the back of the head?

Now I know nothing about this particular middle school. Perhaps all the young boys are perfectly in control of themselves and well mannered on the playground before and after school. Whereas they might not even pay any attention to a shirt, the back of a fellow student’s head is something else. Hair trigger reactions (no pun intended) being what they are in middle school, if I didn’t like the Bengals, I just may express my opinion by throwing a rock at that easy target. Or I may decide to show my team pride with an equal haircut. There goes an open invitation to a brawl.

This student’s mother is so proud of her son for refusing to fix the hair cut and opt to stay in the in-school suspension area studying by himself. Evidently, she doesn’t feel actually being in the room with the teacher and the rest of the classmates is as important as his rights to freely express himself. There are parents that would agree with that.

As a former teacher, I don’t. If middle school was simply about reading a book and taking a test from that book, then why not? But it is about so much more than that. A child needs to be in the classroom or any learning situation whenever possible. There is much more than book learning going on. Now, granted, I am still talking about Beaver Cleaver’s middle school when I say that. Some of the things happening in middle school classrooms today I would have preferred my son not to learn.

I would not choose to be an administrator in any school today. They have to have steel rods up their backs to maintain order. At the same time they have to be approachable and open. They have to be fair and tolerant. While Mr. Rogers may have been a beloved man, he would not have been a very successful principal. Kids would have loved him as they trampled right over his backside. Nor would Glinda from Oz have been very successful with her sugar coated voice and magic wand. Middle school certainly is not the land of Oz. I would have preferred to work as a teacher for Joe Clark in Lean on Me than the kindest Mr. Rogers, whom I truly admired,  in any neighborhood.

Public schools have lost a sense of authority baby steps at a time for decades. In order for there to be any sense of order and control of chaos there has to be rules. The rules of any school have to be fair and reasonable. Whatever those rules are, they must be approved by all members vested in the education of that community. Once the rules are established, it should be common agreement that they will be followed or there will be consequences. Those consequences should be clearly established as well.

Occasionally there will be parents who disagree with those rules. I will agree that it is their right to do so. But there should be channels of communication with the law makers of the community by which the parents can voice their objections. Usually there are reasons for rules. They are not, like in Hogwart’s School, used for punishment. They are there to optimize the environment for learning. Children usually understand that they can go this far and no farther.

For a parent to willingly allow a student to act in any manner contrary to those rules before challenging the rules on an adult level, I think is wrong. That is what has been happening in our public schools. So many students openly defy the rules, with their parent’s blessing (or lack of care or knowledge), that the school quickly becomes a battlefield for maintaining their “rights”! Chaos reigns. Education ceases to exist. Administrators wave the white flag and run into their offices slamming the door behind them. They choose to administer from behind their desks in the safety of their offices, leaving the teachers without any support at all.

If parents just want a place for their kids to hang out today, let’s just bus them to the mammoth coliseums we have built in the name of sports entertainment. Turn them loose wearing anything any place they desire on their bodies in the name of “freedom” and “constitutional rights”! Let the boys be boys and the girls be girls and everything in between. Let’s just abandon all sense of rules.

But if parents would realize the importance of rules and setting examples, let’s get to the place where we once again show our children what is expected of them and let them live up to our standards. Namaste. Attic Annie


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