A kindergarten student with a freshly spiked Mohawk has been suspended from school.
Michelle Barile, the mother of 6-year-old Bryan Ruda, said nothing in the Parma Community School handbook prohibits the haircut, characterized by closely shaved sides with a strip of prominent hair on top. The school said the hair was a distraction for other students.
"I understand they have a dress code. I understand he has a uniform. But this is total discrimination," she said. "They can't tell me how I can cut his hair."
An administrator at the suburban Cleveland charter school first warned Barile last fall that the haircut wasn't acceptable. The school later sent another warning to her reiterating the ban.
Mohawks violate the school's policy on being properly groomed, school Principal Linda Geyer said. Also, the school district's dress code allows school officials to forbid anything that interferes with the conduct of education.
Ruda's hair became a disruption more recently when Ruda arrived freshly shorn, Geyer said. Administrators called Barile last Friday telling her to pick Ruda up from school.
"This was his third infraction," Geyer said. "We felt that we were being extremely patient."
Rather than requesting a hearing to appeal the suspension, Barile said she'd enrolled him at another school, where he's starting Monday.
Changing the hairstyle is not an option, she said. "It's something that he really likes. When people hear Mohawk, they think it's long, it's spiked, it's crazy looking, and it's really not."
Barile said on The Early Show Friday, "It's not that I'm refusing to cut his hair, it's that they have no right to tell me to cut his hair. Just because they personally do not like it does not mean that it's wrong."
She told co-anchor Julie Chen that, when the school called her to pick her son up, she "didn't understand why. I was thinking to myself, you know, 'There's three months of school left. So what's the big deal now?' "
Barile insists Ruda's hair never caused a disruption and, she told Chen, "No one has ever given me a warning saying that his hair is a disruption ever. And he's had his hair cut like this since the first day of school.
"They told me ... that the board came to a decision that Bryan's hair was a distraction and, due to the distraction, he'll be suspended until further notice if he does not cut his hair."
She added, "We actually asked the principal, how is his hair disrupting the classroom, and she couldn't answer. All she told me was, 'I'm sorry, this is the board's decision.' "