Punished for a good deed

Sometimes, a good deed goes unpunished — but not this time.

Last month, Caprock Academy, a public charter school in Colorado, suspended Kamryn Renfro for violating the school policy for shaving her head in support of her classmate and friend, Delaney Clements, who is undergoing chemotherapy.

The school said Renfro wasn’t allowed to return until her hair grew back because she violated the dress code — a dress code that also stipulates students can’t wear patterned nail polish, can’t wear makeup until the eighth grade unless it’s “tasteful,” and can’t have hairstyles which bring “undue attention to the student.” So a 9-year-old shaves her head, an incredibly brave thing to do for a friend, and that’s blasphemous?

It wasn’t until the story received media attention and became national news that the board of directors held an emergency meeting to vote if Renfro could return, which they decided that she could. I wonder why the change of heart. It’s problematic that a school would hold a meeting only because of the widespread attention the story was getting and not because they saw that there was something clearly wrong with suspending a girl because of a dress code.

A general statement published on Caprock Academy’s website reads: “Our hope is that what takes place inside this new facility will produce an atmosphere where our students will pursue truth and beauty in conversation as well as excellence.”

Did Caprock’s board of directors fail to read their school’s statement? What Renfro did for her friend couldn’t be more representative of the phrase “pursue truth and beauty.” She did a courageous and inspiring thing that most girls her age would never do. Heck, what most grown women wouldn’t do. She wanted her friend to not feel like an outcast. She wanted to support her. If anything, she should have been given a pat on the back.

Back in 2011, a 12-year-old was also suspended for getting red highlights in her hair. Are these girls offending anyone? Are they disrupting or bringing harm to the student body? What they’re doing is being themselves, being individuals, being young girls who can still turn homework in on time and be focused in the classroom. They just happen to have red streaks or a shaved head.

Anyone with a functioning heart can see that Renfro’s suspension was not only undeserved, it was outrageous. The same goes for the other girls’ unfair punishments. Schools, whether public, private or charter, should be aware of the effect these dress codes have on students. If they’re trying to promote uniformity by applying these ridiculous rules, they should read between the lines. I hope this serves as an example of what can happen when a school cannot differentiate between following rules and making exceptions to rules, especially under these circumstances.

Maybe if these schools worried less about dress codes and more about educating their students in an environment conducive for learning and growing, one that implements the importance of being a role model and setting a good example, then Renfro wouldn’t have been suspended in the first place.

As far as the school categorizing her as a distraction for her shaved head, what kind of distraction do they think followed after word spread about Renfro’s suspension? It’s fair to say that was all the administration and board’s own doing.

This incident will teach Caprock Academy, and other schools, a lesson that can’t be found in a school policy.

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