- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) - Ashton Bodiford has missed more than two weeks of school because his hair is too long for a boy’s, according to Rapides Parish School Board policy.

The Town Talk reports (https://townta.lk/19iQkc9) his hair falls past the middle of his back. School board policy requires male students to keep their hair no longer than chin-length in the back and no longer than 3 inches on top. There are no constraints about the length of girls’ hair. Ashton’s sister, also a Rapides Parish student, has shorter hair than her brother.

Ashton’s parents, Shawn and Angela Brewton, contend the rules are unfair and discriminatory. They’re calling for a policy that’s equal for both genders.

Angela Brewton hopes to see changes made before the end of school. She says she sent the board a letter about the issue and plans to address them at its April meeting.

“We feel the policy is very gender-biased,” Angela said. “We would like to get it changed, to see things change, progress with the times, equal treatment for the children. We’re not trying to be rebels.”

Ashton has attended J.B. Nachman Elementary since he and his family moved from Colorado to Alexandria two years ago.

“The rules they have in place are pretty antiquated,” Shawn Brewton said. “And the people who put them in place or are keeping them in place are not very open-minded.”

It is evident that Ashton’s hair adheres to other rules for all students. He keeps his hair clean, combed and uncovered. He also does not appear to have any “disruptive colors or hairstyles,” which are not allowed for any student. He pulls his hair back in a low ponytail for school and keeps the hanging part in line with more rubber bands to keep the hair from being a distraction, Angela Brewton said. But this violates board policy as well. No ponytails are permitted for boys.

It is unclear when the board set the policy, but it predates Superintendent Nason “Tony” Authement’s tenure. He said his role in Ashton’s situation is not a matter of opinion.

“The board makes the policy,” Authement said. “It is my job as superintendent to ensure we are enforcing the rules across the district, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

They have been told he cannot return to school until his hair is cut to within the requirements.

“It makes me upset (to be expelled),” Ashton said. “I’m missing my biggest test (PARCC).”

As a school board policy, only the board can change it during open session.

“Until the board changes the policy - and I’m not suggesting that they do - they (Ashton and his family) are going to have to comply with the policy,” Authement said.

The Brewtons said they gave their son the opportunity to get a haircut, but said he doesn’t want to cut it. She said they could make him cut his hair, but they wonder what lesson that would teach.

“As parents we are put between a rock and a hard place,” Angela said. “Do we teach our children to stand up for their rights, to be an individual, be who you want to be? … We tell them you can be anything. Ashton just wants to be himself.”

The Brewtons have contacted a lawyer about the issue and set up an online fund to help cover possible litigation costs. The site shows that they have raised $275 through www.gofundme.com/LongHairFreedom as of Tuesday afternoon.

“If they would change the policy and he could go to school, we’d have no reason to pursue (a lawsuit),” she said.

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Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk, https://www.thetowntalk.com


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