A Toronto eighth-grader was called to the principal’s office last week and counseled on her appearance. Specifically, her hair was “too poofy” and “unprofessional.” Yes, you read the whole part about the girl being in the eighth grade correctly.
It seems like there has been a lot of “focus on education” in the media and social media lately. I’m not talking about standardized testing or teachers’ salaries; I’m talking about the drama over dress code violations. Short skirts, exposed collarbones and the outline of buttocks in leggings have all been touted as learning distractions.
Every time I log onto my computer, I’m greeted with how a student — usually a teenage girl — has been counseled or suspended because of her clothing. I thought I’d seen every wardrobe kerfuffle school administrators could make a mountain out of a molehill about.
I’m not anti-dress code, but getting twisted over hair that is “too poofy” seems to be a little much. Getting called to the principal’s office and hassled for said “too poofy” hair? Well, the only word I can think of for that is ridiculous. Insert double eye roll.
The principal of Amesbury Middle School insisted the girl remain in her office until she “did something about” her hair. The incident left the girl in tears. Her aunt posted the family’s story on Facebook, and the incident is garnering international attention. The girl’s identity is being kept private, and discussions between her parents and the school district are ongoing. Hopefully, that translates into how a certain school administrator is budgeting her time.
Two red flags here:
1. The principal’s “personal touch” on this one
It makes me scratch my head that this young lady was called to the principal’s office on such an inconsequential matter. I’ll add that the school’s dress code does not address hairstyles at all, let alone the appropriate level of “poofiness.” Is that even a word? My point exactly. We have to wonder what the principal’s level of attention is to governing her school if she has time to give students one-on-one feedback on the bulk of their hair.
The girl broke no established rules, and the principal wasn’t within her rights to tell the girl she had to put her hair up, but even if she had been in the wrong, is it right to put a child in the hot seat in front of the principal for a minor transgression? The answer is no.
2. The beat down of self-esteem
Most girls struggle with self-esteem at some point during their growing years. The girl in this story is 13, which is a difficult and challenging age any way you slice it. Criticizing a child’s appearance for any reason can having lingering negative effects.
As the story unfolded, we learned that the little girl had worn her hair in braids until recently and that the principal had been making negative comments ever since she’d begun letting it stay in its natural state.
I can’t imagine what this principal was thinking or why she thought her actions were appropriate, but all she did was send the message to this girl (and maybe other girls) that her appearance wasn’t good enough and that her unbraided hair was unattractive.
I beg to differ on that last part.
School is a place of learning. There’s been a lot of departure from that in recent months. If this is happening at your school, don’t be afraid to raise the BS flag and demand that the focus remains on education, not hemlines or hairstyles.