8th grader Anthony Moore has experienced the same agony that so many of us have known after receiving a less-than-stellar haircut. The young man was sent to his principle’s office for refusing to abide by the school’s dress code prohibiting hats.
After the dean of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Indianapolis school spent 30 minutes trying to get the boy to remove his hat, school principle Jason Smith was asked to step in and speak with middle schooler.
“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.”
Even though both Smith and the dean didn’t see anything wrong with his haircut, they also knew what it was like to be a young teen boy and how important image becomes at that age. So Principle Smith had a proposal for Anthony.
“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.”
And that’s exactly what Smith did. Instead of merely disciplining the boy, he met the boy’s needs and helped the boy both adhere to the rules of the school while also maintaining his dignity. Anthony’s parent’s were called for permission and then Smith drove home through the snow to retrieve his personal set of hair clippers, where he proceeded to clean up the issues the young man had with his haircut.
“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,” Smith told CNN. “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.”
A photo of Smith cutting Moore’s hair went viral and comments started pouring in with praise for the principle’s kindness and leadership. He was within his rights to issue an in-school suspension, which would have been the typical punishment for Anthony’s type of infraction, but instead he set a great example of kindness and how to appropriately handle sensitive, emotion-based situations.
“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.”