Pink Mohawk pits parents against Harrison Co. School District - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Pink Mohawk pits parents against Harrison Co. School District

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Ryan Swetman, 8, shows off his pink Mohawk in support of his aunt's fight against breast cancer. Ryan Swetman, 8, shows off his pink Mohawk in support of his aunt's fight against breast cancer.
HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Most boys wouldn't dare being seen in public with pink hair.  But 8-year-old Ryan Swetman wasn't embarrassed at all about his new do.

"He thought it was cool. He loved it," said Ryan's mom, Amy Swetman.

But when the second grader sported his hair style at school on Tuesday, his teacher at Crossroads Elementary had a different reaction.

"I had received a phone call that he was not able to come back to school with the pink Mohawk," said Swetman.

Swetman said her son agreed to shave his hair and dye the Mohawk pink for a very personal reason.  He wanted to show support for his 25-year-old aunt who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

"It's scary for him to realize that this could be death.  He loves her very much," said Swetman. "It just seems crazy that you would kick an 8-year-old out of school for supporting their aunt during breast cancer."

But the district's handbook states: "Inappropriate application of make-up, hair color, or haircut that appears to be costume in nature is not permitted."

"Pink hair color would be costume in nature," said Harrison County Schools Superintendent Henry Arledge.

Arledge said while he sympathizes with the Swetman family, rules are rules.

"It's distracting to other students.  It causes problems within the district, making fun of the child," said Arledge. "We have a responsibility to try to raise children to be appropriately dressed."

Swetman said the school district has held events before, where students were allowed to dress up.  For instance, during Red Ribbon Week, students can wear odd clothing and hair styles to raise awareness about drugs. So Swetman said the district needs to make an exception in her son's case.

"There's nothing costume about supporting a nationally recognized cancer association," said Swetman.

Ryan shaved off his pink Mohawk, so he could return to school on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Swetman will appeal the case to the school board on Monday.  Swetman has two other children in Harrison County schools.  She will ask the school board to allow her children to wear pink hair to school on a temporary basis, like for 30-days.

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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