Oakley and the Lebanon School District

ACLU of Oregon Persuades Lebanon School District to Pull Ban on “Unnatural” Hair Color

June 9, 2005 - LEBANON, OREGON - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oregon applauds the Lebanon School District’s decision to rescind its policy against unnatural hair color. The ACLU submitted a letter to Superintendent James Robinson on behalf of Kelsey Oakley, a student at Seven Oaks Middle School who dyed her bangs pink, recommending that the school reconsider this policy.

“The ACLU of Oregon believes that public school students in Oregon have a constitutional right to control the appearance of their hair,” Jann Carson, Associate Director of the ACLU of Oregon, wrote in her letter to Superintendent Robinson, “as long as they do not create a health and safety hazard.”

Kelsey Oakley was threatened with disciplinary action after she dyed her bangs pink, even though her hair has been dyed black and red since January of this year. Julie Oakley, Kelsey’s mother, was informed that unnatural hair color was unacceptable because it encouraged students to tease the student with dyed hair, disrupting class, and because it would offend the school district’s voter base in the community. Kelsey, however, was not teased because of her black and red hair color or her pink bangs.

After struggling over this issue with Principal Ed Sansom, Julie Oakley appealed to Superintendent Robinson and contacted State Representative Jeff Kropf and the ACLU of Oregon. After receiving a call from Representative Kropf’s office, Superintendent Robinson agreed to reconsider the school’s policy against unnatural hair color. The ACLU of Oregon submitted a letter to Superintendent Robinson recommending that no disciplinary action be taken against Kelsey and that the school’s interference with her education cease.

“Uniformity and conformity should not be the highest goals of public school,” Jann Carson concluded in her letter. “Surely the Lebanon School District has more pressing problems to resolve then the hair color of a student who is thoughtful and certainly not disruptive.”

On Wednesday, June 1, Principal Sansom announced that the school was rescinding its policy against unnatural hair color and that this would be announced to the student body at an upcoming assembly.