The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Team Spirit vs. Power and Control

by Andrew Tibbetts

I’ve always wanted blue hair, but I’m forty-five now and I think that window’s slammed shut. I’m not sure where the time went. One minute I was pinning a Nina Hagen button to a second hand army jacket and the next I was wondering if I should downgrade the risk level of my retirement savings portfolio as I was sliding my galoshes over my loafers. Now, I’d need a good reason for blue hair — a role in a sci-fi film, fundraising for a worthy cause, or losing a bet. I came pretty close last week when I was outraged to hear about that Barrie teenager suspended from school over his blue locks. I was about to launch a support campaign when I saw Don Cherry already had. Let me back up…

When Adam Zussino and his teammates got into the playoffs of their local hockey league, they all died their hair blue. The Barrie 13-year old then found himself suspended from school under orders to die it back. The principal believed that he was contravening the dress code and the will of parents. A board spokesperson said, “hair colour is a concern to parents because there are a lot of different styles related to gangs." (His teammates got very different reactions at their schools. His teammate Cameron said, "My teacher loved it. He said it's good for team spirit.")

The parents wrote to Don Cherry who showed up in a blue afro wig with a lot to say — “My dog, Blue, was very offended,” for example. Apparently, the team parents began wearing similar ‘fros to the games, in support. I figured Adam didn’t need my hair-sympathy.

But I do want to say that schools shouldn’t take on the role of haircut police. There are better uses for our educational dollars. If you want get to your knickers in a twist, school administrators, how about getting riled up about the treatment of gay kids. Like Shaquille Wisdom, the thirteen-year-old from Ajax, who was thrown into a garbage can at school the week before he hung himself. It’s harder to catch oppression and marginalization than to catch blue hair, so you’ll have to look at bit harder. Put a bit of effort in. Stop being superficial. And hey, that would set a great example for the kids, though, wouldn’t it?

There’s a rich tradition of school administrators vs. the blue-haired in the U.S. The ACLU in 1999 took a Virginia school board to court over the suspension of blue-haired teen Kent McNew. In Michigan in 2001, junior high student Maria Alexander, was suspended for ‘disruptive hair’. The Supreme Court even ruled on a related matter earlier in 1969, when the haircut police were more concerned about length of (boy’s) hair than colour. Their very stirring conclusion was that students "do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate." Our own Canadian Supreme Court has never had a hairdo case, but I bet they’d rule similarly, despite the fears of Barrie being decimated by warring gangs of green-haired and purple-haired hooligans.

Go, Colts, Go!

(photo of Adam Zussino, proud Colt)


Blogger jsnider said...

I've always wondered how the school administration has the time to worry about blue hair. I mean don't they have REAL concerns on their hands like bullying, gang violence, drugs and so on.

When I was in high school my boyfriend came to school with a "Me not daft, me not silly, I wear jiffy on my willy" t-shirt (he'd just been to England) and the principal asked him not to wear it to school again--even though it was promoting safe sex, which we pointed out!

How is hair colour subversive? I'll never get it.

Anyway, what's wrong with being different????

Wed Feb 06, 09:19:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Anne C. said...

Globe editor Sandra Martin has blue hair.

Personally, I think it's a very difficult look to pull off without looking washed out. You almost have to be thirteen, like this little guy. He looks radiant.

Wed Feb 06, 11:29:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Can't believe schools still care about hair colour. They're such oppressive institutions. How sad about that student in Ajax.

Galoshes, eh? When I was young I used to say I'd know I was old when I started listening to a specific radio station out of NYC. I can't listen to that one, of course, but I've settled into its clones.

Wed Feb 06, 01:41:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

I'd go with blue hair, but I hardly have any hair left.

Schools like conformity, heck, people like conformity, and if they think they can get away with forcing conformity on others they go for it.

Wed Feb 06, 03:05:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger T said...

It's sort of funny and comforting, not to mention rather sad, that all those teen comedies we grew up with could still resonate. The fear-motivated principal trying to control a child's self-expression is archetype now, I guess.

Wed Feb 06, 05:17:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Chumplet said...

Ya gotta love good ol' Don. I wonder if anyone realizes Blue has been gone for years, unless Grapes has a Blue II or a Blue III living at home.

My kids wore uniforms to school but there were no restrictions on hair or makeup. The students expressed their individuality freely.

Wed Feb 06, 09:11:00 pm GMT-5  

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