Boy Kicked Out Of Class For Pink Hair Color

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A 13-year-old boy is back in his eighth grade class this week.

School officials had reprimanded him after he colored his hair pink to honor his grandmother.

She passed away from breast cancer a few years ago.  
Marion city school administrators say their disciplinary action followed school policy - but the boy's mom says how they treated him was unfair.

"My grandmother died in 2006, and I've always supported her since,” said Matthew Jordan.  “It just made sense to dye my hair because I wanted to throw attention out there for breast cancer awareness."

Two weeks after Jordan dyed his hair pink, the color is fading, but not his spirit of expression.

"My friends were right on for it,” he says, but administrators at Grant Middle School were not, so they removed him from his regular classes for more than a week, putting him in the school’s alternative learning center, away from his regular classmates.

"I think it's really crappy - excuse my language - that they should single him out because he stood up for something he believes in," said Michelle Durre, Matthew’s Mother.

”I respect that opinion, but what we're trying to do is uphold the policies and procedures our board of education set forth," said Gary Barber, the Marion City Schools Superintendent.

Barber says the school is standing by its student handbook, which says hair color and style should not be “extreme” or “distracting” and calling attention to the student.

The superintendent says Matthew was given a number of other options to express himself, other than to color his hair pink.

Among those were "…wearing a pink shirt, wearing a pin, doing a public address announcement for the school - or any idea the student would be able to come up with to honor his grandmother," said Barber.

Barber says this situation is raising awareness about the need to debate and discuss the issues.

“Anytime anyone brings up those concerns we are willing to listen and take the information and look at our practices and policies,” he said.

Barber says the district has celebrated Breast Cancer Awareness month in many ways:  through fundraisers, pink shirts at Homecoming, and sports teams honoring breast cancer survivors.

“It’s unfortunate that this came into play,” Barber added.  “I don’t want you to think that from the Marion City Schools standpoint, we don’t respect the month of October.”

Matthew says he respects it too - in his own unique way.

"It's all blown over, so I guess what's the past is the past,” Matthew said.  “But still I'd like to be able to dye my hair any color I want, especially if you have a cause."

Matthew was allowed back in his regular classes on Monday.

The superintendent says there are no academic consequences to Matthew’s actions.

In the coming days, Matthew’s family members say they will pursue changes in the school handbook to allow more freedom of expression.