Preschooler Expelled for 'Bad' Hair: The Challenges of Raising an Original Kid

Heather Murphy-Raines/Scout's Honor
To conform or not conform. It's a challenge for parents raising square pegs in round hole society. 

Ask Renee Szablewski. She could give you an earful. You see, her son Jack was banned from his Pre-K class at St. Dominic (a parochial school in Brick, New Jersey) because he has hair below his shoulders.

Seriously? Didn't Jesus have long hair?

Wait until you hear why Jack has long hair: His grandfather died of cancer when he was 16 months old, and Jack planned to honor his grandfather's memory by growing out and donating his locks in his grandfather's name.  Apparently, the principal of the Catholic school was not impressed.

This type of conservatism worries me because my own son is one of those square pegs.


It started last year. My then seven-year-old son wanted a mohawk. We indulged him thinking it would be a passing fancy.  A year later, it still persists.

Author's Third Grader

In fact, it more than persists. It has become part of who he is. An original.

Now, I'm a bit worried.

The mohawk showed up when my little guy was in second grade and had a very artsy male teacher, who loved it and found it perfectly acceptable.


The mohawk lasted through the summer in a variety of colors, and made appearances at fall events.

2 Round & 1 Square Peg

When third grade started, I worried. Would his new, more conservative teacher find it a problem? We showed up on the school supplies drop-off day in full spike. Not a comment or a raised eyebrow. Can I tell you how much I love this new teacher -- and more importantly, how relieved I was?

When it came time for my son to give a speech and demonstrate a skill, he chose to spike his mohawk in front of the class. Nothing but smiles. He is proudly know as "Mohawk Man," by peers. They accept him for who he is.

Today, we took it a step further. Yep, today was full liberty spikes. When I dropped him off, he got lots of stares on mommy hill. Uh, oh. I worried. Hopefully it won't become a distraction worthy of administration action.

Nope, we were in luck. Our elementary school, located in a conservative, middle class, family-orientated community, rocks in its accepting ways. He came home from school all smiles. He'd received many a compliment. He wants to dye his hair blue permanently. He dreams of growing it out as long as mine.

My high school kid, his protective older brother, became a worrier too! He relayed that in middle school, a peer had been suspended for a nose piercing. Another was kicked out for hair color.

This speaks to Renee Szablewski's case. What if my kids ever attend a school like hers? More importantly, what happens in our school district between elementary school (when spikes and crayola color is cool) and middle school, when school districts come down on the side of suspensions for a little non-conformity?

Who knows. All I do know is that if my little guy gets there still wanting his mohawk, this mommy will fight for it.

Mommas Protect Your Square Pegs

My husband, who also likes to march to his own drummer, says that by then, we'll have set a precedent of four years of successful learning. Honestly, at that point, I would argue it would be a distraction for him not to have his signature mohawk. I hope I am worrying over nothing, but I'm already bristling as a mother hen, ready to a fight for her chick's right to keep his cockle.

For now, as all mothers do, I worry. I worry he'll be judged or pegged a certain way by teachers and strangers. I worry also at stifling that independent spirit with which he has been blessed. 

He's always danced to his own tune, and as long as he continues to excel academically and socially, should this mohawk or Jack Szablewski's hair matter? Aren't there more important issues to worry about in schools today?

Image via by ePublicist / Flickr

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