William Pleasant

My Hair My Rights

By William Pleasant, 17, Fresno

I received over six hours of detention, served three in-school suspensions, and was constantly harassed at the end of my junior year of high school just for having my hair like this.

My school district had a rule against boys having long hair. I knew the rule was unfair. My fellow students knew it was unfair. But it didn’t matter because we were powerless. Or at least that’s what I thought.

As a last-ditch effort, I reached out to the ACLU to see if I could get help starting my senior year without being disciplined for my hair. In the end, I was able to start senior year and keep my hair like this because I took a stand. And, my school district promised that the rule against long hair will be changed next semester to be in compliance with California laws on gender equity.

I distinctly remember what a teacher told me when I first said I thought the rule for men’s hair wasn’t right and needed to be changed. It went something like, “the rule isn’t going to change it doesn’t matter what you do, it doesn’t matter what you think is right you should just follow it so you stop getting in trouble“. Sadly that idea summarizes the general sentiment of students, but that’s not how students should feel.

As students, we forget that we have rights. We act as spectators to school and district rules no matter how unfair. We have been conditioned from a young age to “not argue with adults” and do what we are told. It feels easier to comply with rules than to oppose them or change them. The problem with staying silent is that it allows schools and districts to abuse their power and authority.

However, students just like everyone, have the right to feel comfortable in their own skin, included, and fairly treated. And yet, too often schools get away with enforcing rules and restrictions that do the opposite. This injustice in school not only hurts students personally but also negatively impacts their education. Personally, I was told I was being “dumb” and “childish” by teachers and learning directors for not complying with a rule that was obvious gender discrimination. And instead of focusing on studying for my finals, I spent my time worrying about being disciplined for my hair.

School doesn’t have to be that way. Students shouldn’t be made to feel powerless to the rules that dictate a significant part of their lives. We have a say in the rules. If there is ever a rule that you think isn’t fair, I strongly urge you to not just standby but to actively oppose it. You have more power than you think. Just because we are students doesn’t mean that we don’t have a voice.

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