A Utah mom is furious that her son's elementary school sent him home for wearing his hair in a Mohawk. The school called his haircut inappropriate, but his mom said it is part of his Native American culture, the Daily Mail reports.
Teyawwna Sanden was outraged when the principal at Arrowhead Elementary School in St. George, Utah, called to tell her that her son's mini-Mohawk broke school rules.
"I didn't think it was a big deal," the mom said. "He just got his hair cut on Friday, so I wasn't expecting it."
"He's had a Mohawk on and off his whole life," she added. "His hair, it's important to him."
School officials said that Kobe, a second grader, did not comply with the school dress code, which prohibits students from sporting styles that cause a "distraction or disruption" and "interrupting school decorum."
Arrowhead Elementary's principal, Susan Harrah, maintained that the boy's hair was distracting.
"We had the students that weren’t used to it," she explained. "They had called that out. So the teacher brought the student to my attention."
Sanden believes that the school targeted Kobe for his Native American heritage.
"I’m sure they didn’t intend it to be, but [it] felt like a form of discrimination," said Sanden. "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."
Sanden is a member of the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians; her husband belongs to the Seneca Tribe.
"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," Seneca Nation Tribal Councilor William Canella wrote to the school, notes USA Today.
"It’s disappointing that your school does not view diversity in a positive manner," he added.
The administration allowed Kobe to keep his Mohawk after Sanden provided heritage documentation.
John Mejia, legal director of Utah's ACLU, explained that school districts have leeway to set appearance standards for students, “but it is well established law that you do not shed all of your constitutional rights at the schoolhouse door.”
Schools have to make reasonable accommodations to students who wear styles integral to their religion or culture, Mejia added.