When 5-year-old Ethan Clos showed up at school with a short, spiky mohawk last week, his fellow kindergarteners thought it was cool. But administrators at Reid Primary and Middle School in Springfield, Ohio, deemed the edgy cut too disruptive, and ordered him home until he adopted a tamer style.
His mom, Keshia Castle, said that school officials suspended her son on Wednesday. After he begged her for the hairstyle, she finally let him get it over spring break.
"They seen his hair like it was," she told WHIO-TV on Friday. "All the little kids were going over and feeling on it and everything."
Superintendent Gregg Morris says that's exactly why they had to send little Ethan home.
"Our dress and grooming policies are designed to ensure that clothing and hairstyles do not cause a distraction to the learning environment," Morris said in a statement.
The school's handbook states that "Hair shall be worn above the eyebrows and must be kept clean, neat and trimmed" and specifies that boys may not wear their hair longer than the bottom of their shirt collars. It also says: "Hair styling or coloring arrangements which are disruptive or distracting are not permissible."
“Our policy clearly states that any dress or grooming which is disruptive or distracting to the educational process is not acceptable," Morris verified to WHIO-TV. "In this particular case, the student’s hairstyle did provide disruption to the classroom."
Ethan's grandmother, Joyce Wells, thinks the suspension was too harsh a penalty to pay for a hairstyle. A mohawk, she said, isn't really that different from other styles where the hair is cut close to the scalp, especially if the mohawk itself is short.
"I could understand if it was colored, and if it stood up off longer of his head," his grandmother said. "But I don't see nothing wrong with this."
This isn't the mile-high, stiffly gelled punk look of the past. (In fact, if they hadn't used styling product to give his mohawk some definition, Ethan's hair would probably have looked much like a typical military cut.) The child's stylist may have taken a cue from celebrity kids like Maddox Jolie-Pitt and Willow Smith, both of whom have sported the spiky look, to mixed reviews. Kingston Rossdale (son of rockers Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale), Madonna's 4-year-old son David Banda, and Cruz Beckham (whose parents are sport-and-style icons David and Victoria Beckham) have also sported modified mohawks, where the sides are cut close, rather than shaved bare, and a strip of hair on the top is left a bit longer.
In 2009 (and again in 2011), a volunteer football coach at the local high school wore a blond-tipped Mohawk to motivate his team. When a WHIO-TV reporter asked Morris why the coach's hair was acceptable while the kindergartener's was not, Morris said that the two situations are totally different.
“One involved an extracurricular spirit initiative designed to motivate our kids in the football playoffs a year ago," Morris explained. "Classrooms were not disrupted. The other poses a disruption to the learning environment as well as violates the student dress code."
Ethan's mom told WHIO-TV that her son would return to school on Monday, after she has his head shaved, but the style shouldn't have been such a big deal.
"He's a 5-year-old little boy who chose to wear his hair a certain way," she told the news station.