Dress codes are controversial and a touchy subject for millions of students and their families across the country. Some believe that dress codes reinforce homophobia and sexism, some have found that they strengthen academic performance, and others (i.e. me) whole heartedly believe that they are just plain boring and only the cast of Gossip Girl can make uniforms look good.
Personal feelings and conflicting scientific studies aside, earlier this week, a 9 year-old girl in Colorado violated her dress code and was suspended for supporting a friend who was diagnosed with cancer.
When Kamryn Renfro’s best friend and fellow third grade student underwent chemotherapy to treat her neuroblastoma, she lost her hair. In an act of compassion and courage well beyond her years, Kamryn convinced her parents to allow her to shave her head so that her friend wouldn’t have to undergo the experience alone.
As a result of this courageous action, Kamryn’s school has ruled that she is in violation of their dress code which seeks to “promote uniformity and a non-distracting environment” and was unable to attend classes on Monday.
I agree with the school that female students’ shaving their heads isn’t in line with uniformity and that it could be a bit of a distraction. Students might stop and stare. Students might discuss things other than what is playing on the Disney Channel. Conversations will be had and fingers will be pointed. Heaven forbid, but students might actually talk about cancer and illness and might just talk about things like empathy and kindness.
The Mayo Clinic reports that both men and women cite hair loss as one of the most feared side effects once they learn that they have cancer. Hair has historic, cultural, and aesthetic worth and “the good hair day phenomenon” is a real thing. Being happy with our hair has tangible impacts on the way in which we view our self-worth, our productivity, and our emotional status.
Coupled with the stresses of adolescence and the growing pains of puberty, I can only imagine the emotional and psychological stress that Kamryn’s best friend is going through. Thankfully for her, she isn’t alone in this experience and has someone that she can lean on – all thanks to the “disruptive” actions of Kamryn Renfro.
Although the school board has agreed to meet for a special session on Tuesday night, this case illustrates just how backwards our education system and disciplinary policies are. What Kamryn did for her friend is awe-inspiring. Stories of women choosing to support their friend in such a manner have gone viral, and when Hollywood portrays touching moments such as this we feel all of the feels. In an age where we are increasingly disconnected and removed from one another, acts such as this prove once again that there is hope for our future.
Rather than applauding Kamryn for the courage it took to try and help lighten her friend’s load, her school district is sending the message that acts that demonstrate compassion shouldn’t be undertaken if it could rock the proverbial boat. In a public post on Facebook, Kamryn Renfro’s mother Jamie shared this sentiment:
“We do sign that we understand and agree to the rules every year…but honestly, I never thought my 9 year old daughter would do something so courageous, brave and selfless… I have to wake a little girl up tomorrow, who was excited to go to school and talk to her peers about what she had done and why, and I get to try to explain why she can’t do that without making her lose her spirit or feel like she is being punished for something so amazing.”
Kamryn has taken her punishment in stride and her mother is fighting to ensure that she can return to school, bald head and all. While the school board will be meeting on Tuesday night to decide whether or not she can come back into school, we should all applaud Kamryn for her undeniable courage and compassion and hope that our siblings or children have friends who are as considerate and thoughtful as 9 year-old Kamryn.