As media outlets continue to run with the story surrounding Amite High School’s treatment of Valedictorian, Andrew Jones, which prevented him from his graduation ceremony because of chin hair, I wonder how long it will take you to turn this around, admit to an error in judgment and hold another graduation ceremony to honor Andrew Jones.
Yes, even school officials make bad decisions and enforce meaningless rules that have no place in education. Andrew Jones should be commended for standing up for his right to express himself with a mustache, goatee, dread locks, eye hair, ear hair, or any other hair he chooses. His behavior demonstrated great leadership, and he should be applauded not admonished for holding true to his beliefs in the wake of pressure to conform to meaningless rules that would undermine his integrity.
Why did the district target "beard" hair and not mustache hair? Or require students to pluck their eyebrows to a certain height or shave their legs and armpits before graduation? What about the brand of mascara girls must wear so that their lashes aren't too long at graduation? What length of head-hair is acceptable? A young man's chin has an involuntary ability to produce hair, a young woman's doesn’t. Based on your district’s policy, males have the extra burden and expense of shaving their face every morning for school and their female classmates do not.
The policy states that "female" students may wear earrings, yet no length of the earring is mentioned in the district handbook for seventh grade-twelfth grade students. However, males are forbidden to put anything in their ears because this might distract from the “learning environment.” What kind of message does this send to my son when his sister is allowed to wear earrings with her uniform but his earlobes have to remain bare? Your policy clearly favors girls over boys, which violates the last "Major Infraction" of your written policy: #48: sexual discrimination.
Superintendent Kowle, I hope you will lead your district in doing the right thing to abolish this discriminatory and nonsensical 'beard' policy. I hope you will show your community that even adults make mistakes, and when they do, they should admit their mistakes, apologize for them, and offer to make up for them. As parents and educators, isn't this what we teach our children to do? I urge you to host another graduation ceremony for Andrew Jones. The tradition of a graduation ceremony should honor students' achievements and promote their leadership skills without focus on their physical appearance, whatever it may be. A school should never punish students based on hair or hold them back from celebrating the leaders they already are and, hopefully, will continue to be.
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.
We are the ones we've been waiting for.
We are the change that we seek.
-- Barack Obama
Parent & Writer