Three years ago the ACLU of Virginia represented Surry County High School student Kent McNew after he was suspended for coloring his hair blue. That case went to court in Richmond , where a federal district judge ordered the school to reinstate McNew and to pay the ACLU's lawyers $25,000 in legal feeds.
The district court's decision in McNew's case was based on a 1972 Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, Massie v. Henry, holding that students have a "right to wear their hair as they wish as an aspect of the right to be secure in one's person guaranteed by the due process clause."
In 1999, the ACLU also represented a Chesterfield County Middle School student who was ordered to leave school because her hair was colored pink. That case never made it to court, as the school immediately reinstated the student once the ACLU intervened.
According to Jesse Doyle's mother Kim McConnell, Jesse was removed from class on Tuesday, Thursday and today, and told that he could not return to the classroom until this hair had been returned to its original color. Jesse has not been required to leave the school, but is currently serving an in-school suspension.
"One of the responsibilities of school principals is to make certain that students are educated in a secure environment," said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis, "but student expression that does not threaten school safety or disrupt the educational process -- such as the wearing of blue hair -- cannot be banned."
The ACLU's letter, written by legal director Rebecca Glenberg, also notes that the principal appears to be violating the school's own policy on hair. According to the school's student conduct manual, the school only prohibits "hairstyles which interfere with instructional process or present a health or safety hazard." According to Jesse's mother, his hair has not caused any such problems in the school
Contacts: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022 Rebecca K.Glenberg, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022 Kim McConnell, (757) 855-3051