A mother in Utah is furious after her son, a Native American boy, was forced out of class for his traditional Mohawk haircut. The parents explained the situation to the school, named Arrowhead Elementary, but it wasn’t until a Seneca tribe official wrote a strongly worded letter that they allowed the boy back into class.
The mom is now stuck in the awkward position of fighting the rules that led her son to be kicked out of class.
The problem started when 7-year-old Jakobe Sanden was kicked out of class for looking like this:
Jakobe Sanden, 7, was removed from school because of his haircut. Parents say it represents Native American tradition pic.twitter.com/NcT75f6xaA
— Tasmin Mahfuz (@TasminMahfuz) September 20, 2015
The school’s administrators called the family to tell them to pick up their boy. They said the Mohawk had caused a distraction and asked the parents to get the hair cut.
The boy’s father told the Washington Post that request was out of line.
“I told the superintendent I was in no means going to cut his hair because it’s a symbol of who we are.”
Despite their explanations and an offer to show the administrators a tribal card to prove their affiliation, the school demanded an official letter from the Seneca tribe according to Raw Story.
Jakobe has an older brother who didn’t want a Mohawk, and so he has a non-native haircut, which led to suspicions from the school’s principal. The mother explained more to local news WFAA.
“My other boy, he’s 10, didn’t want a Mohawk and went with the non-native haircut, kind of high and tight. So the principal says well, you have another son here who doesn’t have a Mohawk, why can’t you cut (the younger boy’s) hair that way too.”
District official Rex Wilkey defended the school’s actions to WFAA.
“We try to reflect the values and norms of the community. Some things are a little more clear cut, and some things are a little more controversial. You try to manage it the best you can. Kids come in dressed all kinds of ways and it can be an issue for the school.”
The parents managed to get the letter from William Canella, a Tribal Councilor, from the New York office.
“It is common for Seneca boys to wear a Mohawk because after years of discrimination and oppression, they are proud to share who they are. It’s disappointing that your school does not view diversity in a positive manner, and it is our hope that (the boy) does not suffer any discrimination by the school administration or faculty as a result of his hair cut.”
The mother says she’s going to take the matter before the school board to try and get the policy changed, according to the Daily Mail, explaining that it wouldn’t be right to let it go.
“I’m sure they didn’t intend it to be, but if felt like a form of discrimination. We didn’t want to take it there. We provided the papers, but we didn’t feel like it was right to let it go.”
Still, in the end, the Native American boy was allowed back in class with his Mohawk haircut.
[Image Credit: David McNew/Getty Images]