Student's dyed hair violated school dress code policy
SEBRING - Jessica Jestes has lost a grandmother to breast cancer. Her husband, Jeff, had two maternal aunts afflicted with the disease, one who is still battling it. This year, the whole family decided to show solidarity with breast cancer victims, and Jessica and Jeff, along with their five kids, decided they wanted to dye their hair pink. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month so the timing was perfect, they felt. But what their 12-year-old son Michael thought was a brave gesture in support of a good cause turned out to be a nightmare in school Tuesday, they said.The moment he got off the school bus, Michael said he was sent to the office because his hair was bright pink and didn't meet dress code. Michael tried to explain to Hill-Gustat Middle School officials, but he said they either didn't want to listen or didn't care. Then school principal Chris Doty told his mother that Michael would be kept in in-school suspension as long as his hair remained pink. Jessica said after she talked to school officials she went to the school with clippers, hoping to shave off Michael's head so he could go back to class. She didn't want him to miss a class day. She said Doty would not let her shave Michael's head in his office or on school grounds. "My son is not going to have ISS because he has pink hair," she said. "Yes, he's a boy with pink hair. It will come out." Jessica said she saw three girls with pink strands in school. Her own daughter, Emily Crenshaw, who goes to Woodlawn Elementary School, had three bold streaks of pink on either side. "I didn't get a phone call from her school," she said. She wonders if Michael was targeted because he's a boy. In a statement, Doty said Hill-Gustat's student dress code, which has been in place for 10 years, states that "dyeing hair an un-natural color or an unusual hair style is distracting and therefore inappropriate for school." He said in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, in October, students would be allowed to wear pink in their hair as long as it was braids or in highlights or they were wearing pink ribbons. The dress code did not include permission to dye the whole hair pink, he said. Jessica said Michael's bright pink was an accident. A golden-blond kid, she didn't realize his hair would turn so bright, she said. Jessica described Michael as a respectable kid who keeps good grades despite being dyslexic. "He's not a disruptive child," she said. "Of all my kids, he's the least I worry about. If he's being disciplined because he is being picked on, I understand." After all the trouble she took dyeing the family's hair pink, Jessica said she feels sad and angry. Saturday evening she spent 4 ½ hours and two to three boxes of hair color, trying to get the job done. She and Jeff both have dark hair, and before Jeff could get a pink Mohawk, Jessica said she had to first dye his hair blond for the pink to stick. Tuesday, Jeff went job hunting with his pink Mohawk and said employers were curious at first but understood when he explained the situation. As for Michael, he felt like he had no rights. "I felt like a 1-year-old trapped in a baby cage," he said. Today, Michael will go back to school with his head shaved but he's not giving up the fight, he said. He plans to wear a pink shirt or even pink pants. And his mother said she might emboss it with glitter with the words: "I shaved my head for breast cancer."