Kent McNew, the blue-haired student who was suspended shortly after Columbine, settled his lawsuit against his government school. He can now return for his senior year at Surry County High School.
The school probably realized that Kent would win and decided to minimize legal costs by allowing him to return to school, paying for his legal costs, and possibly giving him a financial payment.
Kent’s lawsuit proves that students can successfully fight for their rights. Instead of cutting off his blue hair, Kent endured the suspension and then asserted his legal rights in court. Now, it is likely that all students at Surry County High School can now die their hair. A court win would have confirmed their right but the settlement means that school officials would prefer to see blue hair than more legal bills.
(6/7/98) Millions of students who play violent video games or wear black clothing are pleasant individuals who have no intention of killing anyone. Blue hair is also not a precursor to violence yet a student in Virginia was indefinitely suspended for refusing to adopt a more common hair color. He is now temporarily back in school after filing a lawsuit against his school.
Kent McNew, 16, originally dyed his hair in December. In February, a new acting principal, who was hired to clamp down on students, asked him to change it to a more natural color. McNew boldly refused the request and remained in school.
After the Littleton shootings, McNew refused a second request because his blue hair, “means a lot,” and that the request was, “completely stupid since it was just blue hair.” The principal subsequently suspended him and then forced all students to adopt natural hair colors but no other students disobeyed the principal.
In a letter to McNew and his mother, the principal claimed that McNew violated a school rule that forbids “unusual or unique hair colors, such as blue or green.” He also said that, “In view of circumstances that have occurred recently, the governor expressed that unusual activities/appearances should not be ignored. [McNew] may not return to school until the blue color has been removed and his hair color is within the color range deemed acceptable by the Surry County School Board.”
McNew responded to the letter by suing his school. With the help of the ACLU, McNew filed a lawsuit, in which he claimed that forcing him to change his hair color violates his right to due process and freedom of expression. He also pointed out that in a 1972 case, Massie vs. Henry, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that government schools may not discipline students for their hairstyles.
The judge generally agreed with the 1972 decision and, according to the Virginia Times-Dispatch, he said that schools must know their bounds and it’s just as important for them to follow rules as it is for the students. The judge revoked the school suspension until the court decides the case in August.
During the hearing, the school lawyers and the principal tried to portray McNew as a troublemaker who is a “walking time bomb.” They claimed that had worn a black trench coat to school and considered him to be, “a security threat.”
McNew’s lawyer objected to these points because they were unrelated to his blue hair. In his decision, the judge said that if school officials had truly considered McNew to be a threat, they would have suspended him before that.
McNew is now taking summer classes to make up the work during his suspension. He tried to get his assignments during the suspension but the principal who suspended him, also prevented him from keeping up with his work.
McNew still has no intention of changing the color of his hair. He is waiting for the trial in August, at which time he’ll find out is he’ll be back in school in the Fall. Till then, he’ll be reading up on his rights.
Feel free to contact Kent McNew at Kdragun%40aol.com
We need more students like McNew who are willing to endure suspensions and lawsuits in order to strengthen our First Amendment rights. By dying your hair blue, you would blatantly show school officials that you have the right to express yourself with hair colors.
You’d also inspire other students to shed their conservative attire and reveal their true individuality, which our socialist schools try to suppress. Some students may dye their hair green, shave it, or grow it uncommonly long. Others may be inspired to wear all yellow or all green. Your school would become a monument to individuality.
Here are some sites with helpful dying tips and if you wind up in court and need legal advice, don’t forget about the ACLU:
Wicked Hair Dyeing Page: Tips for dyeing hair unnatural colors and reviews of coloring products.
Zevaluz’s Hair Color Page: Detailed, comprehensive how-tos and suggestions for dyeing your hair, using either temporary or permanent dyes.
Eklectique’s Unnatural Hair Coloring Step-by-Step: A few handy tips on hair-dyeing and opinions on different products.