Are Detroit Schools Stepping on Constitutional Rights?

Written by Patricia Hawke for

In this great nation, every citizen is granted certain rights on the federal level as stated by the Bill of Rights. There are 10 amendments, which came into effect on December 15, 1791. Since that time, individual states were given the option of binding themselves to these rights, in order for all citizens to have the security of living in a state that’s laws and rights are consistent with those of the federal government.
The constitutional right that has come into question regarding Detroit Schools is the 1st Amendment. The 1st Amendment guarantees United States citizens the freedoms of speech, the press, religion, and assembly. For one Detroit Schools’ student, his freedom of speech – in this case coined “religious expresssion” – has come into question. He was recently suspended from Detroit Schools for three days because his hair style violates the Detroit Schools dress code.
So how does that fall into Freedom of Speech? Well, the boy’s hair style is a result, so say his parents, of his family’s Jewish traditions and strict adherence to Old Testament writings which prohibit cutting hair. The boy in question has not had a hair cut in over 10 years, but the school has said he must cut his hair in order to return to school.
ACLU Gets Involved with Decision at Detroit Schools
The ACLU got in on the brouhaha and have filed suit against the school. But have Detroit Schools truly violated this student’s rights? It’s hard to say. We don’t know all of the story, and that’s important. Without all the facts (and who ever gets each and every one of them, anyway?) we cannot truly pass judgement on who is in the right. If this student and his family practice strict adherence to their chosen religion, then the Detroit Schools (an entity of public govrnment, as it is ultimately overseen by the state’s Department of Education) must permit the boy’s uncut hair. To not do so would definitely infringe upon his rights.
However, if the Detroit Schools’ boy and his family are not known to be devoted to their religion, things can get quite hazy. Are the parents making excuses for the boy’s hair? Are they trying to make a statement that goes against the Detroit Schools dress code? Many people have some issues with a strict dress code for school students. They believe that a student’s chosen style of clothing reflects a message; a message that the student wants to show to the world through his or her chioce of attire.
Many Detroit Schools kids, especially teens, are experimenting with their own identities, and exploring different clothing styles is one of the ways they accomplish this. Male students attending Detroit Schools are prohibited from having long hair styles. The prohibition is largely based on the fact that officials believe that such things like long hair distract both the student with the long hair as well as his Detroit Schools peers. If everyone is oohing and aahhing over Billy’s hairdo, learning is not being accomplished. Frankly, no one but the boy and his family know how honest their intentions are. The Detroit Schools is better off giving them the benefit of the doubt.