Despite many accomplishments, valedictorian banned from graduation over beard
A star athlete and valedictorian of his Louisiana graduating class was banned from his graduation ceremonies because of his beard.
The ridiculous situation is another example of school officials, apparently detached from reality, taking their jobs as education professionals too far. A girl is banned from prom because she wore a tuxedo. Another is shamed because her dress isn’t conservative enough for her school administrators. While it isn’t fair for any student to miss out on the memorable parts of high school, barring an amazing student from receiving the honor he worked hard for is beyond ridiculous.
Andrew Jones wasn’t allowed to walk across the stage or perform his valedictorian duties at the event because he refused to shave his beard. “They snatched his robe off him, and they took his awards,” Sabrina Davis, Jones’ aunt, told The Washington Post. “He had to sit in the stands and watch his friends and cousins graduate.” Who cares about his beard? It’s his face, his hair, and his ceremony – after which he would no longer be a student at Amite High School. Meaning their policy would no longer apply anyway.
“Our school board has a policy that does not allow any facial hair on male students,” Tangipahoa Parish School Superintendent Mark Kolwe told ABC News. “This young man was given at least three opportunities.” Administrators were also given three chances to end a disagreement they had no right to start. Jones wasn’t the only student the school forced to remove facial hair in exchange for participation at graduation. Kolwe told reporters that they “took care of what they had to do and marched.” So we should be happy this administrator was able to force a useless rule onto other students?
The policy states that “hairstyles and mustaches shall be clean, neatly groomed and shall not distract from the learning environment” and that “beards will not be allowed.” Well, obviously this young man’s facial hair didn’t distract him from learning. The worst part is that the policy wasn’t enforced during the school year. Kolwe explained that the “principal was attempting to enforce the policy for graduation purposes.” So they could’ve let these students keep living their lives the way they were before graduation, but instead forced some of the young men to shave right before the ceremony while completely ruining it for Jones.
“I refused to shave because I felt as if that was ridiculous, being that I went the whole school year with my facial hair,” Jones told The Post. “Plus, students from other schools in the district who graduated earlier that week marched with their facial hair, so why couldn’t I?”
Other students were able to march with their facial hair intact? Enforcing rules on a selective group of people is something that should never be tolerated. Jones was right for standing up for himself. Why should he change his appearance hours before?
These officials should provide a better explanation and a formal apology soon. And while they’re at it, creating a new policy on facial hair should be added to their homework list.