A girl, 9, shaves her head in solidarity with a friend who's in chemo, and she gets suspended from school. Another girl, 8, wears t-shirts, jeans and sneakers, and she gets suspended, too. Their institutions have different reasons, but the result is the same: bullshit expectations put on little girls.
Both cases came to light this week, the first at a charter school in Colorado, the second at a Christian academy in Virginia. Elementary schoolgirls, doing elementary schoolgirl things: their own things. Shame on them!
The Colorado girl, identified as Kamryn, "shaved her head in support of her friend, 11-year-old Delaney, who is battling neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer, and recently started chemotherapy," according to Fox News. But she was barred from class Monday morning at Caprock Academy because her sheer scalp violated the school's dress code:
Catherine Norton Breman, president and Chair of the academy's board of directors, said 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."
I may be biased here, but that's crap. After a minor media fuss, Kamryn was allowed back into school today, and officials of the charter school are expected to review its dress code policy this week.
Even more ire-raising is the case of Sunnie Kahle, the little girl in the video above "with short hair and a huge heart" being raised by her grandparents. But Sunni's appearance was not traditionally feminine enough for her principal at Timberlake Christian School, according to WSET-TV. The school sent her home with a stern letter:
The letter goes on to say that students have been confused about whether Sunnie is a boy or girl and specifies that administrators can refuse enrollment for condoning sexual immorality, practicing a homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity.
The letter goes on to reference specific Bible verses that affirm these beliefs.
The letter reads in part, "We believe that unless Sunnie as well as her family clearly understand that God has made her female and her dress and behavior need to follow suit with her God-ordained identity, that TCS is not the best place for her future education."
Sunnie is now in public school.
"How do you tell a child when she wants to wear pants a shirt, and go out and play in the mud and so forth, how do you tell her, no you can't, you've got to wear a pink bow in your hair, and you've got to let your hair grow out long, how do you do that?" Sunnie's grandmother asks.
The answer is that you don't. Or shouldn't.
You'll say there are obvious differences in these cases—a charter school and a Christian school. One that rethinks the wisdom of its policies when confronted with a hard case, and one that doubles down. But they're both indicative of a certain kind of social and cultural fragmentation, of a pulling inward into one's microcommunity, of defining that community by who disrupts it or threatens it.
Both of these schools are being stupid. Their rules may be rooted in honorable intentions to set boundaries for classroom conduct. But their rules are out of control. Little girls (and boys) shouldn't have to conform to any arbitrary standards of little-girl-little-boy appearance.
But no one can force these schools to stop being stupid, because America freedom something something.