A middle-schooler wore a hat because he was embarrassed by his haircut. Instead of disciplining him for wearing the hat, his principal fixed his hair.
Jason Smith is the principal at Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Indianapolis, Indiana. When he saw one of his students upset about his recent haircut, he stepped in to save the day. According to CNN, his student Anthony Moore was wearing a hat to school, which is against the institution’s dress code. Typically, breaking school dress would have resulted in an in-school suspension, or a child would have to be picked up by their parent.
The student went to the school dean and had a conversation for about 30 minutes, and that’s when Smith offered his services. “I sat across from him and asked, ‘What’s wrong? Why are you being defiant, why are you refusing to take your hat off? It’s a pretty simple request,'” Smith said. “And he explained that his parents took him to get a haircut and he didn’t like the results.”
While Smith and the dean felt his hair looked fine, he understood the social pressures from being a teen. “But you know he’s a 13 [or] 14-year-old kid, and we know social acceptance is more important than adult acceptance,” he said.
“I told him, ‘Look, I’ve been cutting hair since I was your age,’ and I showed him pictures of my son’s haircuts that I did and some of me cutting hair in college. And I said, ‘If I run home and get my clippers and fix your line, will you go back to class?'” Smith said. “He hesitated but then he said yes.” The principal made his way home to get his clippers and returned to his office to line up the boy’s hair. CNN reports that his parents allowed Smith to cut their son’s hair.
The student’s mother, Tawanda Johnson, said she was pleased with the kind offer. “He (Smith) handled it very well to keep him from getting in trouble at school,” she said. “I’m just glad that he was able to handle that without…being put in in-school suspension.”
“He didn’t say straight out, but I feel like he didn’t want to be laughed at,” Smith said. “The barbershop and hair cuts as Black males is very important in the community and looking your best and being sharp — it’s just a cultural aspect.”
“Just from my being a Black male myself and coming through that culture, and you know, I really think girls matter at that age, which [means] appearance then could matter. He was scared he was going to be laughed at, and we were pretty sure no one would notice, but he was looking through his lens,” Smith said.
Throughout the day, Smith checked on Moore, who kept his promise to keep the hat off. “All behavior is communication, and when a student is struggling, we need to ask ourselves what happened to this child instead of what’s wrong with the child,” Smith said. “What need is the child trying to get met, and really, the future of urban education rests on that question.” Smith said disciplining Moore “would have prevented him from being in front of a classroom teacher and giving him the education he deserves, so it really worked out well.”