BOWLING GREEN - A Bowling Green Junior High School seventh-grader's hair coloring has local school administrators seeing red.
Hugh Caumartin, the Bowling Green schools superintendent, said yesterday that the dyed red streaks in Angelica Hummel's hair violated a district dress code that, among other things, specifies that hairstyles "must not be extreme, distracting, or disruptive" - including bright colors like blue or pink.
"Clothing and hairstyles that cause a distraction or are very conspicuous are not something that works well in education, in a learning atmosphere," Mr. Caumartin said.
The district doesn't object to hair dying itself, Mr. Caumartin said.
But once the realm of "unnatural hair colors" is entered, "when you start getting purples, pinks, and maroons, it can get out of control pretty quick," he said.
But Angelica, 13, who was sent home Wednesday by junior high Principal Lee Vincent after observing her hair, said the auburn dye she used is tame and she's being treated unfairly because other students haven't faced similar discipline for hair, clothing, or piercings that have been more flamboyant than hers.
"It's stupid," Angelica, whose natural hair color is off-blond, said yesterday. "Everybody else has done worse things than I have and not gotten in as much trouble as I have."
Michelle Hummel, Angelica's mother, said if the "little bit of dye" in her daughter's hair violated school policy, then the policy needs rethinking.
"These kids are not babies, but they're not quite adults yet," Mrs. Hummel said. "They've got to find out who they are. They've got to be able to express themselves a little bit."
And both mother and daughter wondered aloud why nothing had been said about Angelica's hair until Wednesday, four school days after it was recolored.
Mr. Caumartin responded that school officials sending students home for dress-code violations is "a pretty regular event," not a unique punishment. But sometimes it takes a few days for an issue to reach their attention.
"With 3,200 kids, there are probably some that fly under the radar for a while," the superintendent said.
He added that some teachers may be reluctant to confront dress-code violators because they don't want to deal with the resulting conflict with students or their parents.
School officials can do little about students who hide piercings or inappropriate clothing and flash them to classmates when nobody else is looking, Mr. Caumartin said.
"We're not going to start searching belly buttons," he said.
The district does not keep track of how many students it sends home to correct dress-code violations, the superintendent said, and Angelica has not been suspended from school.
The girl is being allowed to do schoolwork at home. But if she misses too many days, "it could become a truancy issue," Mr. Caumartin said.
Angelica said she is hoping publicity about her situation will persuade school administrators to relent.
But if they don't, she said she'll probably recolor her hair in time for a class picnic and seventh-grade graduation event scheduled for late next week.
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