Hair rules and such

By Mir
February 18, 2008

It cracks me up to no end that y’all are so concerned in the comments of this post that perhaps I haven’t fully investigated whether the kids’ school has an issue with weirdly-colored hair. I just want to point out—and I say this with love in my heart, truly—that when it comes to school, I am perhaps one of the most rule-abiding folks you’d ever hope to meet. Some might even say that I’m hopelessly square in this regard, and to those people I would just like to say “Put a sock in it, and go clean your room.”

I mean, yes, I will absolutely go to bat for my kids if there’s something that needs addressing, but in general I am only too happy to abide by whatever guidelines the school sets out. That includes (but is not limited to): cruelly forcing my children to do their own homework, not packing soda or candy in lunches even though other children break this rule all the tiiiiiime, Moooooooom!, sending in a note to alert teachers of changes in pick-up/bus arrangements, and making the kids wear real shoes and not flip-flops.

So, yes, many of you were correct—this school does have something to say about hair coloring, and the handbook wording is sufficiently vague, but it reads along the lines of forbidding anything which might be “distracting.” Personally, I think having fourth graders with C-cup bras is distracting, but THAT IS NOT IN THE HANDBOOK. Nor are any of the following: Not having recess any time the weather dips below 50 degrees (the hell?); having a different bus driver every couple of weeks (including one who ARGUED WITH MY KIDS about where we live); having a policy where teachers send home weekly newsletters except that, oh yeah, I have NEVER gotten one of those; and “canceling Valentine’s Day” because too many of the children were “too rotten.” See, I find THOSE things distracting, but no one asked ME.

But the point is, far be it from me to just blindly ignore a rule.

I like to ASK before I ignore a rule.

So I sent an email to Chickadee’s teacher on Sunday:

To: Teach McTeacher
Subject: dress code question

Hey Teach,

How’s this for a random question: I see that the Small Neighborhood School handbook forbids “unusually colored” hair, but of course I’ve also seen children there with hair in colors not seen in nature. So, my question is, what are the odds of pink hair or whatever being a problem at school?

Chickadee has decided she’d like to do something wacky with her hair for her birthday in April, and silly me, I said “Sure, we’ll get you something semi-permanent, no problem” without first checking to see if such a thing could potentially get her into trouble. Thoughts?


See? That’s me, thinking ahead.

I received the following back just a couple of hours later:

To: Mir
Subject: Re: dress code question

Dear Mir,
I am laughing out loud right now! I did not know that was even part of the dress code. I will check on it for you. Yes, there are kids at school with all kinds of hair color. I will be shocked if Dr. Principal says there is a problem. I’ll forward this email to him.

This, of course, prompted a speedy reply from me:

To: Teach McTeacher
Subject: Re: dress code question

Okay, well, first of all, stop checking work mail on a Sunday. And second, stop laughing at me. ;)

We are building grand plans for Nightingale and Chickadee to rock out in honor of the big 1-0 and I would hate for such an event to be followed by a phone call to pick the kids up from school because their hair is too distracting. I’m guessing Nightingale’s mom might not be too happy with that, either.

What can I say… the intersection between “cool mom” and “terminal goody-two-shoes” is a precarious one. ;)


Now I await the final verdict from Dr. Principal, but I am not anticipating a problem, for two reasons: First, I have seen hair in every color of the rainbow at school, already. And second, in a school where children are regularly being suspended for fighting, cursing at the teachers, and otherwise being hooligans, I really cannot believe that a couple of well-behaved girls in the gifted program are going to be given crap about their hair. I just really think that the principal probably has his hands full with the kids who are actually misbehaving.

[Side note: Yes, I know that’s not “fair.” If it’s in the handbook, it should be enforced, regardless of who or what they are. But if I started going through everything that’s not being enforced at this school due to lack of resources or the more pressing issues that come along with having a building full of kids living below the poverty line, we’d be here all week. And that would require me to interrupt my I BELIEVE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION chanting which allows me to continue to send the children there without having a nervous breakdown, so, no.]

So, hey—this is great. We’ll start with the pink hair, and then when she wants to start piercing her face, we’ll be all set. Except for the part where I lock her in her room, instead. Details.


  1. Shannon

    “the intersection between “cool mom” and “terminal goody-two-shoes” is a precarious one.”

    I struggle with this balance as well. :)

  2. Megan

    Chickadee’s teacher sounds great! It also seems you’re ready to go with the hair stuff so, again, keep in mind that Chickadee’s lovely dark hair will not show color very well, and also that household linens are sure to suffer the consequences no matter what method you use. This includes not only towels but pillowcases and possibly sheets as well. Hope she has a fantastic time!

  3. Bob

    my son’s hair was a deep deep blue for a year in HS.

    I just hope for your sake that asking for permission doesn’t start a wholesale enforcing of the hair color rule! Your name would be mud in the deepest, slimiest, grittiest sense of the word. Pariah would about cover it.

    But the blue-haired ladies at church would celebrate you for it.

  4. barb

    It’s all about perspective!

    I teach in a mid-sized rural school and when kids show up with wacky hair colors we tend to giggle a bit and say to the other teachers “WHAT was his/her mom THINKING!”

    The woman who teaches next door to me came to us after 6 years of teaching at an inner city school. When one of her students showed up with bright blue streaks in her very blonde hair (mind you, it was Halloween that week!) she panicked and sent the child to the principal for approval. Seems that in her previous school any wild hair colors were forbidden because the older children used them to show gang affliation!

    I hope Dr. Principal has a fun-filled heart and sees the joy in your request! Sounds like Teacher has no problem with it.

  5. All Adither

    You could probably dye her hair, stuff her bra, put her in flip flops and send her to school with a two-liter of Coke and a King-sized Snickers and no one would bat an eye.

    From your description of the school anyway.


  6. Mama Bear

    My main question isn’t about the haircolor. Perhaps I didn’t recognize sarcasm this time, but were you serious about the recess at less than 50 degrees? Because here where I live, the kids go outside unless the windchill is more than 10 BELOW zero! Which means if you happen to be the sub that day, you also go outside until 10 BELOW zero. Yuck!

  7. Mir

    I was serious about recess. Apparently a lot of kids have been coming to school without coats (whether they cannot afford them or are just forgetting them, I have no idea) and so recess ends up being canceled for the entire class because it’s “too cold.” This is a huge pet peeve of mine—because I want my kids (who is wearing a coat!) to be allowed recess—but they are too understaffed to split the class, and having the coatless kids go out is a problem.

  8. Lori

    This issue has already come up at our house, and my son is only 3… because I dye *my* hair pink and purple (and bleach it white, too). He’s already put in a request for purple hair “when I’m older.” Hopefully I’ll have softened up any teachers or administrators by that point with my own colorful head and perfectly normal behavior. Well, maybe not “perfectly,” but close.

  9. Grace

    Wow, this takes me back.

    I had orange hair as a kid–not by choice, but because we had hard water with iron in it and it deposited on my very blonde hair. And I got in trouble for my “unnatural hair” in my (small, rural, public) school. It was awful. My mom threw a fit about it, though (go Mom!), so they chilled.

    Anyway, Mir, I think it’s cool that you are letting Chickadee do this and that you checked it out at school just so there won’t be an surprises. Props for being the cool AND prepared mom. :)

  10. Em

    I hate to be a pessimist but I’m worried about Bob’s possible scenario. That seems like just the thing that would happen. Something simple, easy, fun that you ask for permission about instead of just doing it turns into Dr. Principal ruining the party and making everyone mad. Of course, that probably is the worst case scenario and maybe Dr. Principal isn’t like every other “boss” I’ve known with lots of book smarts and no common sense. Maybe he or she is balanced and fair. Still, I’m anxiously awaiting his or her response with fingers crossed.

  11. DR

    First paragraph: exactly why I generally keep my mouth shut on someone’s blog.

    When one “transplants” to the deep south there are often “cultural” differences that could cause a problem that you would never foresee and that might cause your child embarrassment. I doubt that being sent home would bother your free-spirited son but with your daughter’s sensitivity, she would probably be mortified…and blame you.

    You would be surprised how many parents never open a student handbook. However, it is quite interesting that the teacher did not know either…sounds like a “laid-back” school where kids are allowed to be kids in their learning environment. (By the way, most teachers where I taught disliked the handbooks themselves. Generally these handbooks are products of administration.)

  12. Jenny

    I know the gang affiliation thing is an issue at more and more schools these days, but I have to admit I laughed at the mental image of a couple of suburban ten-year-old girls with pink streaks representing a gang affiliation; especially since I’ve been watching “Gangland” on the History Channel.

  13. saucygrrl

    I doubt the hair color enforcement will be a big issue. I mean, there are such bigger issues at hand it’s hard to believe that pink hair would be at the center of it all.

  14. ChristieNY

    My 5 year old niece is currently sporting (very cute, actually) red highlights/streaks in her dark hair. At first I was quite surprised, but her Mom said that when SHE was having her hair colored the stylist offered to put the “extra” color in her daughters hair and they both loved the idea. Even the 3 year old daughter got a swipe of the color to be “included”.

    If you want to be sure the hair color isn’t distracting, a deep red hue might be just the ticket, natural enough looking, yet different enough for chickie to enjoy it. Good luck! :)

  15. Shalet

    The weather thing is killing me. I was 50 degrees here yesterday and I was pleased it was so WARM! I think our school’s cut off for outdoor recess is 7 degrees F. Anything above that and you are good to go. As for needed coats – the lost and found at our school has so many items left behind I think the entire school could be outfitted for winter.

    I hope Chickadee gets to color her hair. :o)

  16. Jamie AZ

    I think it sounds like fun for the girls – hopefully Dr. Principal agrees! Another idea for you would be henna “tattoos”. One of our neighbors was marrying a man from India, so all of the bridal party, the mother of the groom and us neighbors did henna tattoos – customary for the bridal party and family to do so. They lasted about 4 weeks and gradually faded away. It was a fun, temporary commitment to body art.

  17. The Other Leanne

    Kids don’t get cold, everyone knows that. It’s the adults on the playground who just don’t want to be there. Weeners.
    Maybe everybody in school should color their hair in honor of Chickadee’s birthday!

  18. Djurdjica

    Hey, that’s awesome that you’re coloring her hair like that. I wish I could’ve done it as a kid, it’s really just the right age, rather than go batshit insane when one’s older and wanting to do something silly with yourself because you never did.

    Oy, run-on sentence.

  19. elizabeth

    I’ve got nothing to add on the hair color front, although you are a way cool mom to do it.

    but I just had to say you haven’t been here in the south long enough to start saying “y’all.” being a damn yankee for almost 20 years now, I have resisted that one phrase. I actually love “fixin’-to” and “come with.” I’ll occasionally even “tote.” but I simply refuse to “y’all.” just gotta draw a line somewhere. ;-)

  20. Amy@UWM

    Once again amused at the hair dye ads in your Google ads box.

    Good that you’re checking in with the Principal, but also prepare yourself for the reactions Chickadee’s classmates’ parents who will just LOVE you for putting this idea into their kids’ heads (“But Chickadee did it, why can’t I?”).

  21. BOSSY

    Gah, what would little Cyndi Lauper’s principal say?

  22. Long time reader, First time poster

    I hate to be a Debbie Downer here but how many kids are going to be at the birthday party?

    It is an adorable idea/good compromise on the ear piercing, and if Chickadee and her BFF are the only ones in attendance no problem. If however there are going to be several little girls getting their hair dyed there might be some hurt feelings the next day on the playground.

    There is nothing more obvious than dyed hair to point out who did and did not get an invite to a party hosted by the World’s Coolest Mom.

    What if Chickadee were the only one to have her hair dyed? I know it won’t be nearly as much fun, but semi-permanent hair dye can be a pretty lengthy reminder of a fifth grader’s invite list.

  23. Mir

    I guess I could commit to dying the hair of multiple little girls, but it seems easier and less onerous to just jab myself in the eye with an ice pick, instead. ;)

    This is something JUST for her and her BFF. It’s not a party.

  24. Emily

    I just love the fact that you said ‘y’all’ tee hee, made my morning!

  25. Mom101

    If there were no multicolored hair allowed when we were young’uns, well then there’d be a gaping, cavernous gap in 80s culture. That and the fingerless lace gloves.

  26. Jess

    Mir, you inspired me–my daughter is waiting for us to do a test strand with some blue spray stuff. In theory, it comes out after one wash, and if she likes it, we may well do something a little more long-lasting (but still not permanent, because, dude, my kid’s hair is nearly to her butt, and that would be a LOT of growing-out!).

    I’d love to hear what product you decide to use. At some point, I’d like to break out that manic panic gel stuff, because, come on. Black light hair!

  27. jennielynn

    You are the coolest mom ev-ah. In fact, I think you should start thinking about the matching tats you and Chickie will be getting on her 18th birthday!

  28. Astrogirl

    There’s something to be said for exploring this stuff in a fun, safe, and mom-supervised way. Take it from a good Catholic girl, who was not allowed to pierce her ears or date until she was 16 (I know!), or wear makeup until she was 18 (oh, the humanity!). Let’s just say, a few wild oats were sowed. Ahem.

    It’ll save you a lot of anxiety when she gets to college ;).

  29. linda

    We’ve been busted. Apparently green boy hair is distracting- even if it is St. Patrick’s Day. As are flip flops, spaghetti straps, skirts that don’t reach a 9 yr old girl’s fingertips. Also teenager t-shirts sporting either beavers or squirrels, or a combination of them doing things with John Deere.
    The bad? My kid comes home wearing his shirt inside out once a month. The good thing? I am never asked to be room Mom or classroom chaperone.
    Good luck.

  30. Heidi

    Can I just say that SOME GIRLS CAN’T HELP IT IF THEY DEVELOP EARLY and what is up with girls with big boobs, no matter how old or young they are, being automatically considered slutty??

    Ahem. Sorry. I must still have C-cups in Fifth Grade issues.

  31. D

    I’m with Heidi … same issue here; runs in the family and believe me, hiding it with layers was the only option. A classmate fainted once from heat stroke after layering herself in two sweaters and a sweatshirt to hide her figure … in June back east. :-(

    But, that aside, checking “da Rules” is always good – thanks for being a “good Mum” [tm] on that. :-) My son wants his blond hair back and is already checking out “natural” blond highlighting products [he’s 77] … I’ll have him and his Aunt do a hair colouring event, though when he’s older — my luck his Aunt’ll have her stylist do it! :-)

  32. McSwain

    First thing I thought of on the last post was “rules.” I teach elementary school, and kids aren’t even allowed to wear colored gel in their hair on “crazy hair day.” A kid with pink hair (or a Mohawk, for that matter) would be sent home to fix it.

    Boring. I know. I’m not supposed to wear jeans, either. Except on Fridays.

  33. dynamitt

    THANK YOU for making your kids wear proper shoes. I work in child care where kids as young as 1 (who just learnt to walk a month ago) is wearing crocs! I hate those things.

  34. Chuck

    When I was in high school, weirdly colored hair and an earring was enough to rebel with. Seems like now you need a tattoo and tongue piercing to get the same effect. Oh well. Something to look forward to for high school!

    Watch out at the party; I bet Monkey will want to get in on the hair dye action also.

  35. Marissa

    Not to scare you but a mock case from first year of law school was on this issue exactly. Was it constitutional for a school to outlaw “weird colored” hair because is it a distraction or does it violate the free speech clause of the First Amendment. It was fun to argue the “symbolic speech” conveyed by blue hair streaks.

    I know I’m a bit late on this but if no one has suggested it yet I have used the hair gel with color on my 7yr boy and it washed out in one shampoo. It was part of the deal that if he cut his shaggy mop into a shorter shaggy mop he could use the gel to have green streaks for the day.

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