13 January 2010

Long Hair -- Only For Girls?

The New York Times reports that a school district outside Dallas, Texas is refusing to allow a four-year-old to attend pre-kindergarten with his classmates because his hair has grown too long to meet the district's standards. He spends his days in the library with a teacher's aide instead of in the classroom with the other kids.

His hair, according to school board officials, will distract the other students.

It seems to me to be a pretty draconian enforcement of gender norms. Or is it actually a ban on progressive politics, expressed through music?

According to the school district's code of conduct, in the section "Boys: Additional Guidelines":
Hair is to be out of the eyes, not extend below the bottom of the earlobes and
cut so that it does not extend over the collar (dress shirt).

Also: no earrings for the guys, though apparently the school board has no problem with a parent piercing the ears of a four-year-old girl, or letting her wear her hair over her face. (For what it's worth, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting to pierce a child's ears until the child can take care of the piercing "herself.")

It seems to me that if the other little kids are being distracted, it's not by the boy's hair but by the reactions of the adults around him. It's too bad the school officials of Mesquite, Texas feel it's that important to police so intently the boundaries between boys' and girls' self-expression.