In what has become the new normal for teachers and administrators, we have yet another case of a suspension based on a thoughtless and heartless application of a school rule. The latest outrage comes from Caprock Academy in Grand Junction where Kamryn Campbell was suspended when she showed up at school with a shaved head. The teachers and administrator said that a shaved head violated the hair code of the school but she explained that she shaved off her hair to support a friend battling cancer. The school basically said “that’s nice” and suspended her.
Kamryn’s good friend Delaney, 11, has lost her hair to chemotherapy due to her neuroblastoma and Kamryn did an extraordinary thing in shaving off her own hair. It is the type of sacrifice that shows tremendous humanity and maturity and was met by the complete absence of those traits in her teachers and administrators.
What is astonishing is not simply that some teacher reported the girl and administrators punished the girl, but the board of directors thinks that this was a justified action. Catherine Norton-Breman, president and Chair of the academy’s board of directors, insisted that the dress code “was created to promote safety, uniformity, and a non-distracting environment for the school’s students. Under this policy, shaved heads are not permitted.” There is no statement of outrage or disgust from the board about the treatment of this noble child. Until I read Breman’s comment, I thought that this was a case where someone needs to be fired. Now it appears that it is a far greater and endemic problem in this school. I cannot imagine putting one of my children in the care of such people, but I would remove any child from the school after reading this story. (To make matters worse, Norton-Breman is a lawyer who is President and General Counsel of Allen Incorporated, an asset management company).
We have previously followed the suspensions and discipline of students under zero tolerance policies that are used by teachers to justify zero judgment or responsibility. I have long criticized zero tolerance policies that have led to suspensions and arrests of children (here and here, here and here and here and here). Here is a prior column on the subject (and here).Children have been suspended or expelled for drawing stick figures or wearing military hats or bringing Legos shaped like guns or even having Danish in the shape of a gun. Despite the public outcry over the completely irrational and abusive application of zero tolerance rules, administrators and teachers continue to apply them blindly. If you do not have to exercise judgment, you can never been blamed for any failure. Conversely, even when the public outcry results in a reversals, teachers and administrators never seem punished with the same vigor for showing no judgment or logic in punishing a child.
It the mission statement for the school, families are told:
Character is more than an adornment of a classical education; it is its conditio sine qua non. It is only fitting, therefore, that the mission of our school is to hold everyone to high academic and ethical standards. . . . Any time we transcend the status quo, we have to seek out a certain amount of discomfort. The removal of ignorance from our minds requires effort. . . . we are all working for the benefit of your child’s intellectual and moral growth. . . . Our students delight in being challenged, they rise to the tasks we give them, and they astound themselves, their parents, and us with their eloquence, their learning, and, more often than not, with a maturity that is beyond their peers.
Of course, Kamryn showed amazing character and ethics in her action and was punished for it. She is the mature figure in this story. The only accomplishment from this mission statement is achieving that level of discomfort for most of us.
Source: USA Today