Thursday, May 28, 2009

"She asked me why..."

Having grown up in a private Chrisitan school all through elementary and junior high, I know what it's like having strict rules implemented on me in the classroom. Our school motto was "Safety, Respect, and Responsibility", and for violating this code of conduct, we would receive a "BLEEP!" This stood for "Behavior Lapses Erode Educational Performance." These were for the middle school kids. For the elementary students, they had the "OOPS!" I was still a well behaved young lad during those early years though, so I never got to find out what clever set of words that acronym stood for. From what the cooler and unrestrained children at public school told me, I found out that their version was called the refural, which sounded so much more official and threatening to my fourth grade mind.

The way that these worked, was if your got three of either one, you would get a forty-five minute detention, to be carried out either after school or during lunch with the vice principal. These would most likely involve either picking up trash around the school, or cleaning tables in classrooms. If you managed to get yet another "BLEEP!" after the initial three (Oh, you rascal!), you got an hour and a half detention. An hour and a half of roaming the campus with a black garbage bag and gloves, gathering Capri Sun juice packs and Lunchables boxes.

If you intended on completing your detention during school hours, you had to eat your lunch in the office, and sit there all through recess. During these awkward visits I got to know the staff there pretty well, as well as all the hidden nooks and crannies the office building had to offer. Later at home, when I discussed the day's events with my mother, I learned that Patty's (the secretary) mother lived at the apartment buildings a few blocks down from our house, across the police station. These apartments also served as a halfway home for ex-convicts, an agreement our local neighborhood warriors were petitioning against. Before my office visits, Patty was simply known as the "band-aid lady".

The rule that angered us the most was the restriction on hair length: for guys, it couldn't be past your eyes. This made me so ferociously angry that a school would go that far to monitor someone's appearance. Hats and caps, I understood. Ripped jeans? Sure, whatever. But hair? Is it really that necessary?

If a teacher or supervisor noticed a student's hair length was becoming longer than appropriate, they'd send a polite letter to the student's parents notifying them that their son was violating the dress code. So, for the last two years of middle school, I would grow my hair out as long as I could, brushing it out of my eyes to remain unnoticed, and eventually cut it when I was detected.
This would usually be by our vice principal, who greaty resembled Hitler due to his black hair and mustache (which turned into a full beard during track season).

So when I heard about a seven year old Aborginial boy who's shoulder length hair was cut off by a teacher during class, to me it sounded like business as usual. Of course, the teachers at my old middle school wouldn't actually cut the hair themselves (although I bet some would have love to), instead they'd threaten us with suspension until our hair was back to proper standards. If I ever had a teacher that would be willing to do such a thing, it would be my Bible teacher (yes, Bible is a subject at Christian schools). Countless times she had me sent down to the office for having holes in my jeans, and countless times I have recited the Christian pledge of allegiance under her judgmental stare.

In my ideal world, when asked about his remarkable hair length, the native boy would burst out into the opening lines of the title track from Hair, the musical. I wish that I had been clever enough to do that in my vice principal's office, while being questioned about my hair length. But that wasn't the case, since back then I was more focused on being rebellious rather than ironic, and I angrily complied every time.

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