Matthews school punishes boy for having long hair

School punishes boy for having long hair
Published: Aug. 22, 2016 at 10:22 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 30, 2016 at 7:29 PM EDT
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(Corey Schmidt | WBTV)
(Corey Schmidt | WBTV)
(Corey Schmidt | WBTV)
(Corey Schmidt | WBTV)

MATTHEWS, NC (WBTV) - The parent of a rising third grader at Queens Grant Community School says her son has been singled out by administrators and discriminated against, all because of a desire to keep his hair long.

Jennifer Bonetti called On Your Side Investigates at the end of last school year, in June, when her son was given in-school suspension. He didn't hit anyone or cheat on a test. Instead, Bonetti said she was told, her son's hair touched the collar of his jacket.

"In some ways it's just comical," Bonetti said. "If it wasn't affecting him it would be funny."

Bonetti said she has been fighting the school's dress code since December, when she asked the school's board of directors to change the dress code policy that prohibits boys from having long hair. She said that attempt was unsuccessful.

Instead, Bonetti said, she had her son's hair trimmed but was told it was still too long.

"We tried to stay within the rules. We followed the rules but everyone had a different interpretation," she said. "His teacher didn't like that his jacket collar, which stands up like this, touches his hair. His dean was measuring his hair to make sure it didn't go below his collar and the principal didn't want it touching his collar."

Bonetti said the school's scrutiny of her son's long hair amounts to sexual discrimination and said if the school board continues to refuse to change its dress code, she will file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.

A spokeswoman for the school declined to make anyone available on camera to explain the policy but did issue the following statement:

Queen's Grant Community School is proud to provide school choice to the Mint Hill area for the past 15 years. The dress code policy at the school has been in place since the school's inception. All families are aware of the dress code as it is clearly communicated with them. Additionally, the policy is outlined in the Parent and Student Handbook, which all families sign, confirming they have read and understood the policies in the Handbook.
The concerns addressed by a parent of one of our students is before the Queen's Grant Community School Board at this time. The Board will communicate directly with the family its position on the concerns raised.

Bonetti's son, Aaron, said he felt like teachers are ganging up on him. He wrote a letter expressing his feelings.

"I don't get how you can just make me change my hair," the boy said. "By the way, America is free, thus you can't just tell me to cut my hair, so in a way, you're breaking the law."

Aaron's mom said the school's enforcement of its hair policy seems counter-productive.

"In the handbook it says the school put in place the dress code to reduce distractions and competition," she said. "How is it less of a distraction to remove him from the classroom to measure his hair during instructional time? To put him in detention, to put him in suspension? How is that less of a distraction than his hair touching his collar?"

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