St. George, Utah — This week, a 7-year-old Native American student was sent home from school because he had a traditional mohawk haircut, which is common in many native cultures. According to school officials, the boys haircut was "distracting" and a violation of school policy.
The school's dress code states that: “Extremes in body piercings, hair styles and hair colors may be considered a distraction or disruption.”
The school was forced to allow him to return to school after a representative of the Seneca National Tribe wrote a letter to school administrators urging them to respect the Seneca culture.
“It is common for Seneca boys to wear a Mohawk because, after years of discrimination and oppression, they are proud to share who they are. It’s disappointing that your school does not view diversity in a positive manner, and it is our hope that (the boy) does not suffer any discrimination by the school administration or faculty as a result of his haircut,” Seneca Nation Tribal Councilor William Canella said.
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According to the boy's father, the school assumed that since his brother did not have a mohawk, that he somehow had no right to express his heritage.
“I have two (sons) who go to Arrowhead. My other boy, he’s 10, didn’t want a Mohawk and went with the non-native haircut, kind of high and tight. So the principal says well, you have another son here who doesn’t have a Mohawk, why can’t you cut (the younger boy’s) hair that way too,” Gary Sanden, the boy's father said.
School administrators have defended the actions, saying that they just needed to see "documentation" and proof of a cultural link.
“We try to reflect the values and norms of the community. Some things are a little more clear cut, and some things are a little more controversial. You try to manage it the best you can. Kids come in dressed all kinds of ways and it can be an issue for the school,” Rex Wilkey, assistant superintendent of Washington County School District said.
Native people are still heavily discriminated against, and it is terrible to see that schools are so strict that these children are not able to express their heritage. However, regardless of culture, children should be able to express themselves freely without a long list of limitations on how they dress.
John Vibes is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter-culture and the drug war. In addition to his writing and activist work, he organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference, which features top caliber speakers and whistle-blowers from all over the world. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can find his 65 chapter Book entitled “Alchemy of the Timeless Renaissance” at bookpatch.com.