Childrearing

7-Year-Old Native American Boy Showed Up At School With A ‘Distracting’ Mohawk, Somehow Everyone Was Able To Act Like Adults About It

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little-boy-mohawkMohawks are high on the list of hairstyles that school administrators like to ban from campuses around the U.S., but one school ran into an issue earlier this month when they pulled a little boy from class for wearing his hair in that style and then realized that he has a legitimate reason for doing so, because he is Native American and his parents say the hairstyle is a part of his culture.

According to The Washington Post, 7-year-old Jakobe Sanden showed up at school at Arrowhead Elementary School in Santa Clara, Utah, last week with his hair cropped into a cute Mohawk. The sides were cropped very short, and the hair along the top of his head was only a couple inches long. (That is not Jakobe in the stock photo attached to this article, but the cut is similar.) Jakobe has had a Mohawk before, but this time some students who had not seen it before made a fuss, so the teacher notified the principal and the principal took Jakobe out of class and had his parents called and asked to get his hair cut.

It always seems odd when school dress codes forbid “distracting” hair and clothes, because nothing stays distracting for that long. If I got a pixie cut or dyed my hair blue, it would probably distract my coworkers for about an hour before they went on with their lives, and I think the same would hold true of Jakobe’s Mohawk.

Jakobe’s parents, Gary and Teyawnna Sanden, told the school they did not see how Jakobe’s hair could be that big of a distraction and said that it was a part of Jakobe’s heritage and he should be allowed to keep it.

Often when this happens, school administrators dig their heels in and refuse to budge, but here principal Susan Harrah was pretty reasonable about the whole thing. She did ask the Sandens to get a letter in defense of Jakobe’s hair from tribal leaders instead of taking their word for it, but Seneca Nation Tribal Councilor William Canell came through on Jakobe’s behalf, and Harrah said the hair could stay.

“From past centuries to the modern era, Native boys have worn their hair in various lengths and styles to demonstrate their pride in their heritage,” Canella wrote. “It is common for Seneca boys to wear a Mohawk because after years of discrimination and oppression, they are proud to share who they are.”

A representative from the school board said the issue was now resolved and that Jakobe’s Mohawk is understood to be a “cultural preference,” and he can keep it if he wants to.  He was not suspended or sent home over the hair, and now everything is totally fine.

It’s always surprising to see a dress code issue handled reasonably and fairly. Maybe the Santa Clara school district should give lessons to their peers on how to handle dress codes without disrespecting students’ cultures.

(Photo: iStockPhoto/Getty Images/tyler)