Lauren Mcdowell, 13, was sent home from school after arriving on the first day with this haircut. (Photo: SWNS)
The mother of a teenager is crying foul after her daughter was sent home from school for her unusual haircut.
Lauren Mcdowell, 13, recently got a haircut that is shaved on one side. That shaved side is also dyed brown and blonde in a leopard-print pattern, and it’s a style the UK teen had been wanting for a long time, according to her mother Yvonne Mcdowell. So when Lauren was sent home from the Forge Valley School on Wednesday, Yvonne was not happy. “As far as I’m concerned it’s a breach of my daughter’s human rights,” Yvonne told News.com.au. “No one has the right to tell someone what to do with their body. It is her body. She is my child and not theirs. She didn’t sign away her rights when she started at school.”
But the school, which requires students to wear a uniform, said the dress code policy is very clear. “This policy is communicated to parent[s] frequently and is available to download from our website,” Head teacher Dale Barrowclough told News.com.au. “The policy clearly states that extreme haircuts, including hair color, are not allowed. A pupil arrived at school with a ‘leopard skin hair color’ style. I took the decision to send the pupil home in order to remedy this breach of the school’s uniform policy.”
Yvonne said that while she supports the school’s right to impose a uniform, governing students’ haircuts goes too far. “The school says they encourage children as individuals but this is not supporting her. Lauren has a life outside of school,” Yvonne said. “I have explained to the school that I can understand its uniform policy and I totally agree with it but you cannot tell anyone how their hair should be styled. They are discriminating against her because of how she looks. She has the right to express herself in whatever way she wants as long as she is in school uniform.”
Yahoo Parenting was unable to reach Yvonne for comment.
Yvonne said her biggest concern is that her daughter’s education is being negatively affected. “She loves school. She is not a bad pupil. She works hard. What has her hair got to do with her education?” she says. “They are refusing my child an education. She was in school wanting to learn.”
Teen behavior expert Josh Shipp says it’s not surprising that a student at a uniform-requiring school would want to use her hairstyle as a form of individual expression. “Where there is restraint present, such as with school uniforms, teens will try to differentiate though whatever options available,” he tells Yahoo Parenting. “Hairstyle, shoelaces, jewelry, socks — it’s understandable. We all want to be unique and express ourselves.”
Whether or not hairstyle belongs in a school dress code is often up for debate, but Shipp says that if a family chooses a school with those rules, then they need to work within those confines. “Part of going to school is learning how to adhere to certain guidelines and boundaries,” he says. “Just like you’ll have to in college, at work, while driving, the list goes on. Within those boundaries you can be as creative and expressive as you wish. Just respect the boundaries.”
While he understands Yvonne and Lauren’s frustrations, Shipp says simply disregarding the rule isn’t going to work. Instead, he says Yvonne should use this as a teachable moment for her daughter. “Here’s the bigger life lesson: If you don’t agree with something, leverage your frustration to create change,” he says. “Maybe this whole hairstyle rule is ridiculous, but it’s the current rule, so you have to respect it. But you can leverage that frustration to try and respectfully change it by having a conversation with administrators, starting a petition or gathering letters of support.”
Not that it will be easy, he points out. “Are you guaranteed a positive result? No. Much like the real world,” he says. “But I bet you’d learn some extremely valuable lessons that would serve you well into adulthood.”