Jan 3, 2011
Parents Want Federal Court To Declare Team’s Haircut Policy Unconstitutional

The parents of a former Greensburg Junior High basketball player are asking a federal court to declare the team’s haircut policy unconstitutional.

In a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, Patrick and Melissa Hayden say team rules governing the length of players’ hair violate their son’s right to wear his hair the way he wants and also treat male and female athletes differently because female players don’t have to adhere to the same guidelines.

Their 14-year-old son, identified as A.H. in the lawsuit, was kicked off the team this fall after he refused to cut his hair to comply with team rules, which require players’ hair to be above their eyebrows, collars and ears.

The Haydens said in the lawsuit that they met with the basketball coach and school officials, but no one would change the policy. So they sued.

“What they’re trying to do here is teach (their son) a life lesson, which simply is that you fight for what’s right, said Ron Frazier, the Haydens’ attorney. This is classic David versus Goliath, and they want their son to understand that.”

The Haydens are asking the court to force the schools to stop enforcing the team’s haircut policy and rule that it’s unconstitutional, as well as award any necessary damages to the family.

But the school district claims the policy didn’t violate the boy’s rights, partly because participating in extracurricular activities is a privilege, not a right.

Courts split in hair rulings

Courts have been divided in their rulings about grooming policies in schools, said David Hudson, First Amendment scholar at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University.

Some rulings support students’ right to wear their hair as they choose during school, but generally, Hudson said, schools are given more leeway with extracurricular activities.

In 2003, a federal court in Missouri dismissed a case in which a basketball player sued a school district because coaches wouldn’t let him wear cornrows in his hair. The court called the grooming policy “an asinine, stupid rule” but decided that participation in extracurricular activities is a privilege, not a right, and that the policy didn’t violate the player’s constitutional rights.

An attorney for Greensburg Community Schools said the Haydens’ claims likely are invalid for that same reason. He also questioned whether U.S. District Court is the appropriate venue for this case, based on recent rulings on related issues.

The schools didn’t deny the boy the right to an education or kick him out of school, said Tuck Hopkins, who represents the school district.

“It’s two different standards, he said. There is no right to engage in extracurricular activities.”

Greensburg Junior High’s athletic code bans hairstyles that “create problems of health and sanitation, obstruct vision, or call undue attention to the athlete.” It also lets coaches set more specific guidelines, as head varsity coach Stacy Meyer did.

According to the lawsuit, Meyer wanted both the high school and junior high teams to have a “clean-cut” image and that the haircut guidelines created a sense of uniformity for the teams.

Other coaches weigh in

Some Indianapolis-area basketball teams have hairstyle guidelines for similar reasons, but coaches say they haven’t had problems with enforcement and wouldn’t necessarily remove players from the team if they broke those rules.

Mark James, who has been head boys basketball coach at Franklin Central High School for 26 years, requires his players to keep their hair above their collars and out of their eyes. He also tells players their sideburns can’t go below their ears.

James said he wouldn’t kick players off the team for violating his haircut policy, but he might not play them as much, mostly because they would be ignoring team rules.

Jack Keefer, who has coached at Lawrence North High School for 35 years, said he doesn’t have a specific haircut policy, but his players know their hair needs to be short if they want to play during games.

“I always tell the kids, ‘The longer the hair, the slower you look, ‘ and I don’t play slow people, Keefer said. If hair’s more important than being on the team, you’ve got a player and a parent with their priorities in the wrong place.”

But some schools aren’t as strict. Coaches at Ben Davis High School don’t have many guidelines about grooming, athletic director Kevin Britt said. As long as a students’ hair is clean and doesn’t jeopardize anyone’s safety, they allow students to participate in sports.

“We forgo the clean-cut look to complete our main mission, Britt said, which is to have kids involved in extracurricular activities.”

Still, Hopkins said he doesn’t think Greensburg Schools officials would change their philosophy, even with a lawsuit pending.

“I don’t see this school district agreeing that this child join a team without having to cut his hair.”

Parents Want Federal Court To Declare Team’s Haircut Policy Unconstitutional

IndyStar.com

The parents of a former Greensburg Junior High basketball player are asking a federal court to declare the team’s haircut policy unconstitutional.

In a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, Patrick and Melissa Hayden say team rules governing the length of players’ hair violate their son’s right to wear his hair the way he wants and also treat male and female athletes differently because female players don’t have to adhere to the same guidelines.

Their 14-year-old son, identified as A.H. in the lawsuit, was kicked off the team this fall after he refused to cut his hair to comply with team rules, which require players’ hair to be above their eyebrows, collars and ears.

The Haydens said in the lawsuit that they met with the basketball coach and school officials, but no one would change the policy. So they sued.

“What they’re trying to do here is teach (their son) a life lesson, which simply is that you fight for what’s right, said Ron Frazier, the Haydens’ attorney. This is classic David versus Goliath, and they want their son to understand that.”

The Haydens are asking the court to force the schools to stop enforcing the team’s haircut policy and rule that it’s unconstitutional, as well as award any necessary damages to the family.

But the school district claims the policy didn’t violate the boy’s rights, partly because participating in extracurricular activities is a privilege, not a right.

Courts split in hair rulings

Courts have been divided in their rulings about grooming policies in schools, said David Hudson, First Amendment scholar at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University.

Some rulings support students’ right to wear their hair as they choose during school, but generally, Hudson said, schools are given more leeway with extracurricular activities.

In 2003, a federal court in Missouri dismissed a case in which a basketball player sued a school district because coaches wouldn’t let him wear cornrows in his hair. The court called the grooming policy “an asinine, stupid rule” but decided that participation in extracurricular activities is a privilege, not a right, and that the policy didn’t violate the player’s constitutional rights.

An attorney for Greensburg Community Schools said the Haydens’ claims likely are invalid for that same reason. He also questioned whether U.S. District Court is the appropriate venue for this case, based on recent rulings on related issues.

The schools didn’t deny the boy the right to an education or kick him out of school, said Tuck Hopkins, who represents the school district.

“It’s two different standards, he said. There is no right to engage in extracurricular activities.”

Greensburg Junior High’s athletic code bans hairstyles that “create problems of health and sanitation, obstruct vision, or call undue attention to the athlete.” It also lets coaches set more specific guidelines, as head varsity coach Stacy Meyer did.

According to the lawsuit, Meyer wanted both the high school and junior high teams to have a “clean-cut” image and that the haircut guidelines created a sense of uniformity for the teams.

Other coaches weigh in

Some Indianapolis-area basketball teams have hairstyle guidelines for similar reasons, but coaches say they haven’t had problems with enforcement and wouldn’t necessarily remove players from the team if they broke those rules.

Mark James, who has been head boys basketball coach at Franklin Central High School for 26 years, requires his players to keep their hair above their collars and out of their eyes. He also tells players their sideburns can’t go below their ears.

James said he wouldn’t kick players off the team for violating his haircut policy, but he might not play them as much, mostly because they would be ignoring team rules.

Jack Keefer, who has coached at Lawrence North High School for 35 years, said he doesn’t have a specific haircut policy, but his players know their hair needs to be short if they want to play during games.

“I always tell the kids, ‘The longer the hair, the slower you look, ‘ and I don’t play slow people, Keefer said. If hair’s more important than being on the team, you’ve got a player and a parent with their priorities in the wrong place.”

But some schools aren’t as strict. Coaches at Ben Davis High School don’t have many guidelines about grooming, athletic director Kevin Britt said. As long as a students’ hair is clean and doesn’t jeopardize anyone’s safety, they allow students to participate in sports.

“We forgo the clean-cut look to complete our main mission, Britt said, which is to have kids involved in extracurricular activities.”

Still, Hopkins said he doesn’t think Greensburg Schools officials would change their philosophy, even with a lawsuit pending.

“I don’t see this school district agreeing that this child join a team without having to cut his hair.”






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