Things have been getting hairy at H.G. Olsen Elementary School, so Principal Pat Nelson recently made an announcement.
Speaking over the school’s public-address system on Friday, Nov. 12, Nelson told students that they had to get their hair out of their eyes, one way or another, by the following Monday.
The Port Aransas Independent School District’s written Code of Conduct doesn’t expressly forbid students from having hair in their eyes, but it grants principals the right to determine whether a student’s grooming interferes with the educational process.
“Students shall be dressed and groomed in a manner that is clean and neat and that will not be a health or safety hazard to themselves or others,” the code says. “The district prohibits any clothing or grooming that in the principal’s judgment may reasonably be expected to cause disruption of or interference with normal school operations.”
Nelson said she has noticed lately that hair-in-eyes syndrome has been striking a good number of students.
“It was getting out of hand,” she said. “Some students were looking sloppy, not well-groomed. It’s a distraction to the educational process.”
Not all students were happy with Nelson’s announcement.
Fifth graders Elena Crawford, Kayla Pugh and Katie Koetter co-authored a letter to the editor of the South Jetty, objecting to the announcement.
In an interview, Elena said her hair isn’t in her eyes constantly, but strands sometimes slip down below her brows when she runs or leans over while reading a book. She said she doesn’t want to cut it.
“I don’t like my hair in straight bangs,” Elena said. “I like it parted to the side.”
Students can still have long hair; they just need to keep it out of their eyes, Nelson said.
That might mean a trim. Or, for girls, it might mean using a hair band or barrette, she said.
Teachers need to be able to see students’ eyes to make sure they’re focused on the lesson at hand and not looking at other students’ work during tests, Nelson said.
“It hasn’t been rampant, but there are some – you can’t tell where their eyes were going, because their hair is down to the end of their nose,” she said.
As of Tuesday, four days after the announcement, Nelson said she was noticing that the hair situation had gotten better around school.
“It’s much better,” she said. “The ones that were the worst – they complied.”
She said she spoke, one-on-one, just as a reminder, with five students who still needed to get their hair out of their eyes, she said.
Nelson said she hadn’t received any complaints about her announcement, only a few calls from parents seeking clarification on requirements. She said some teachers thanked her for making the announcement.
Nelson said she will call a student’s parents if there is non-compliance. If hair remains in the eyes after that, the student could be sent to in-school suspension, or ISS, she said.
PAISD Superintendent Sharon Doughty said she didn’t ask Nelson to make the announcement about hair. But Doughty said she had no problem with what the principal said.
“Operation and management of the campus is the principal’s job, not mine,” Doughty said. “If a principal acts within policy and guidelines of the district, I support them.”