Bosco: Long Hair Not Cutting It

by Joshua Lucero 

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As cliche as it sounds, many students believe their hair can be an important way to express their inner selves and their culture.

On August 21st, sixth grader Faith Fennidy arrived to school at Christ the King Parish School in Terrytown, Louisiana and received a notice about being in violation of dress code. The Archdiocese of New Orleans stated she was not expelled, but rather “withdrawn” from Christ the King. But what school administration didn’t bargain that day was this being the beginning of a problem for the school’s haircut policy.

Faith and her family were sidetracked and shaken by the news. Faith left her campus in tears after her natural hair didn’t meet her school’s standards. However, this was not the first time Faith received notice regarding her hair being in violation of dress code.

The first day of school Faith received a letter stating she must change her hairstyle to conform to the school’s policy. The first time her parents took her to change her hairstyle. But after receiving second notice of her violation, Faith’s parents were surprised at the suddenly harsher repercussions.  

In today’s society, we are taught to reform social standards for the betterment of all in order for us to become all we can be as individuals. Creating this sense of individualism can be difficult when students feel restricted in the expression of their culture.

Saint John Bosco has created a school community with excellent unity, openness and understanding. Unlike Christ the King Parish School, Bosco’s administration is open-minded about their policies.

When violations arise in dress code, students here are given an opportunity to correct them before facing punishment. But while the rules at Bosco are clear and known, many of us adhere don’t adhere these rules, creating at times an unneeded tension within the rules and the student community.

As cliche as it sounds, many students believe their hair can be an important way to express their inner selves and their culture.

“As a black youth growing up in a non-black environment, I feel as if my hair is one of the very few ways I can express my culture,” said junior Elijah McCray.

Through his hair, McCray is able to express his culture and who he is. This major conflict is something that he and many others are trying to bring to light. Some students of color feel they are trying to be molded into this “cookie-cutter” of a person when they do not fit the neatly into the descriptions outlined in the school’s policy.

Other students have expressed no problem with the school’s haircut policy. The caveat, however, is that many of these students wear their hair over the three-inch limit stipulated in the policy. They don’t have a problem because they aren’t being held accountable to the rules that are supposed to govern all students.

I’m a living example of the contradictions present in the enforcement of school’s current policy. My hair well-exceeds the three-inch limit, but because of my Latino descent, my straight, thick hair looks up to policy. One month into school and eight inches later, I haven’t been held accountable for my long hair since I served as a “big brother” at the freshman orientation in August.

For others, like McCray, who have curlier hair due to their ethnic background, it’s harder to fly under the dean’s radar.

This is no fault of the administration and certainly does not reflect purposely targeting certain students. Simply, it is not possible to catch every student in Saint John Bosco with hair over three inches. While many students do keep their hair cut within the rules, in other cases, students can break the “three-inch rule” but still present themselves as “well-groomed” and “professional.”

“Coming to Bosco, the hair policy is understandable,” said junior Ryan Jones, a participant in the Biomedical Pathway and member of Bosco’s performing arts program. “But in order to succeed in today’s society we should, as Braves, be able to express our individuality. Our hair can be a symbol of who we are.”

Jones, one of many who feels this policy can be revised for the better, believes if students stand together with the administration, they can impact more a culturally inclusive policy regarding hairstyles and show that Bosco is not like other private schools who have simply stuck to the book without adapting to ongoing social and cultural changes.  

Junior Brad Dominguez, another excellent student who is in the Biomedical Pathway, feels as if the haircuts are “fair game.” He expressed more concern with the the rules surrounding facial hair in particular.

“Students who shave on Monday and see that their beards grow back within two days should be able to have some leeway,” said Dominguez.

It makes sense for students like Dominguez, who have demanding academic and extracurricular schedules, to be granted some extra time to shave when they might not find the time to do so on a daily basis.

Students are not the only people at this school who believe the hair restriction can be changed for the better.

Mr. Mario Cordero, a well respected history teacher at Saint John Bosco, believes that the hair policy can be altered and justified by the way we present ourselves.

“I see hair that is out of compliance by students, but they take pride in their hair,” Mr. Cordero said, who himself has worn his hair long and is in favor for a revised policy.

That said, he understands that a Bosco Man must know proper etiquette and discipline. This is where he draws the line, as he is ultimately in support of the well-mannered and well-groomed Brave, conceding that hair can be outside of official policy while still being considered “well-groomed.”

Vice Principal of Student Affairs Mr. Adan Jaramillo understands where his students are coming from when talking about this issue. Being a former Bosco Brave, he has experienced everything we have.

Looking at the diversity of our school, Mr. Jaramillo understands that many students do have hair that looks longer because of their ethnic background and they can’t help it.

Mr. Jaramillo and other administrative members are looking through the current policies and considering amendments to those that may be culturally outdated.

He says rather than the handbook’s stipulation that students must have no facial hair and hair under three inches, we could potentially change to hair and facial hair that is simply “neatly groomed and presentable.”

How our community determines the definitions of “neat” and “presentable” remains unclear, but the issue certainly garnered attention at the start of the 2018-2019 school year.

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