School often serves as a place where kids can experiment and express their personal style. Sure, disagreements related to dress code arise every so often, but rarely do we hear about educators questioning a child's hairstyle. But a Redditor reports that her 9-year-old's teacher has been doing exactly that, and the situation sounds truly eyebrow-raising.
The original poster (OP) shared in the Parenting subreddit that her son is in fourth grade at a medium-sized school in the south. "His hair is in a shaggy surfer boy style, about collar length," she wrote. "He has beautiful golden brown hair with a few lighter highlights that I have put in myself. He loves his hair and has never had anything but positive comments from adults and friends alike. Until this year. We went to orientation the week before school started. His teacher made two comments within an hour, along the lines of, 'Oh, I hope you get a haircut before school starts! I can hardly see your eyes!' It is nowhere near covering his eyes, he has a side part sort of and wears it that way."
The mom wrote that she bit her tongue when the teacher made those initial remarks. But her son has since reported that his teacher has asked him "several more times when he will be getting a haircut." The 9-year-old is "confused why his teacher cares so much about his hair," as is his mom. She noted that she "doesn’t really know how to respond to her," and she has told her son to relay to her "that if she has any more questions about his hair she can come to me." She concluded with a question for the community, "Is there any advice that anyone has? Or maybe some reasoning behind her questions that I’m missing?"
Parents quickly chimed in with words of wisdom for the OP. One named NiteNicole advised, "Just email her and ask her to stop. Please stop commenting on Kid's haircut. He does not know when he is getting it cut, nor do I, and it's up to him. The constant commenting is creating a distraction and making him self-conscious. I want his focus at school to be on school, not his hair. Thank you, Parent. As long as he's not violating any dress code, then her personal opinions about his or anyone else's hair should be kept to herself."
NotChistianRudder recommended coaching the 9-year-old on standing up for himself, writing, "This is actually a great opportunity for him to practice self-assurance. Sit down with him and go through some possible ways he can respond politely but firmly. Something along the lines of 'I like my hair this way and I don’t plan to cut it any time soon, thanks.' If he can solve this problem on his own, it will a valuable life learning skill."
Zoomies897, a self-identified middle school teacher, noted that the boy's teacher is "being inappropriate, but it could just be a stupid mistake. I’ve been teaching for a decade and every year I make a comment that rubs someone the wrong way. I highly suggest emailing the teacher (and not their boss) and giving them a chance to fix the error. There’s a new trend of parents cc'ing everyone they can think of at a school to try and bully teachers when they don’t get what they want, and while in some cases it might be merited (like this one), it really sets the wrong tone and should be used sparingly. If the teacher doesn’t apologize and stop with the hair stuff immediately, set up a meeting with the principal."
No matter how the OP opts to address the situation, here's hoping she and her son feel empowered to do so. Not only is calling a boy out for his long hair an example of a problematic double standard (after all, would one of his female students be targeted in the same way?), but as long as students aren't violating the school's dress code, teachers would do well to avoid making seemingly or blatantly judgmental comments on their personal style. Figuring out who you are and how you express that outwardly as a kid is challenging enough. The last thing students like the OP's son needs is stress caused by an adult who should know better.