Native American Kid Suspended for Daring to Grow Hair

Jeanne Sager
36

long hair cutAnother day, another school district that just doesn't get it. Hair -- even long hair -- is just hair. But we can now add Seth Chaisson to the list of kids kicked out of school for daring to let the stuff that grows naturally out of the scalp keep on growing.

The teen was suspended from Juban Park Junior High in Louisiana last week after he refused to cut his flowing locks because they're part of his cultural identity. Chaisson is Native American, and as a member of the United Houma Nation, the ACLU is arguing that his long hair is protected under freedom of religion.

Frankly, I don't think it matters. Hair is hair. When are schools going to stop treating it like it's got power of Biblical proportions?

As a kid I remember being taught the story of Samson, the Biblical strong man who had his power sapped away when his hair was cut. But I say this with more than a bit of experience -- hair really doesn't hold that much power.

The first time I shaved my head, I was a senior in high school. I walked into my house expecting my parents to be angry -- my mother had refused to put clippers to scalp. Instead, I got rolled eyes and pretty constant ribbing. Their reaction taught me a lot about parenting. Don't sweat the small stuff. Because something much worse could be going down. As both of my parents have put it to me in more recent years: "You weren't shooting up in an alley, you'd shaved your head. In the scheme of things, it was so minor."

I've taken that lesson to heart as a parent. It's helped me ignore tantrums that I know are being thrown just to get attention. It's given me the strength to let a 5-year-old dress herself and walk out of the house with her, my head held high even while I'm cringing inside. Yes, people will question what kind of mother lets her kid out of the house in "that," but in 5 minutes, they'll have something else to think about. The world will keep on spinning.

School administrators will tell you that long hair and shaved heads and mohawks and hair dye are "distractions" in the classroom. Sure. For about 5 minutes, they are. I walked around a school bald once. I remember the comments.

But put it up against drug dealers in the school. Teens having sex under the bleachers. Teachers screwing their students. Should I really go on? Those are the kinds of distractions that don't just make kids chatter instead of paying attention to academics, they're dangerous. They're "real" problems.

The ACLU shouldn't have to stand up for Seth Chaisson and his right to sport long hair. Because Seth Chaisson's long hair isn't a real problem. If schools would stop treating hair like it's got Samson-like qualities, we could move on to real issues.

Does your school have rules about hair? What do you think of them?


Image via shino/Flickr

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