Education Lab

Does Fresno Unified's 15-year-old dress code need a fix? The superintendent thinks so

Fresno Unified will review its dress code policies as a result of an incident with a Tenaya Middle School student who was pulled out of class for his razor haircut.

Superintendent Bob Nelson announced Monday the Board of Education plans to revisit the dress code, which was last updated in 2003.

"A nose piercing in 2000 may not have been perceived the same way then as it is now," he said.

Nelson said the dress code is meant to align with the values of the Fresno region, and he believes it currently does not, especially in respect to "cultural responsiveness."

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Layla Sysaknoi, an 8-year-old student in Fresno, was recently kept home due to her buzz cut that featured her initials on one side, and a design on the other. The third-grade student missed a week of school. Contributed

Earlier this month, a 14-year-old honor student at Tenaya Middle School was pulled out of class for a buzz cut featuring crisscrossing lines on one side. An elementary school student also missed a week of school due to a similar buzz cut, but Fresno Unified spokesman Miguel Arias said the girl was pulled out of school by her mother, not due to disciplinary reasons related to her hair.

Fresno Unified board president Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas apologized to the Tenaya student, and any student "who has felt marginalized."

The existing dress code forbids hairstyles "which draw undue attention and detract from the educational environment," including unusual colors, designs and buzz cuts.

Nelson has directed schools to stop enforcing the hair-related policies included in the dress code until the review is complete. He said students will be involved in creating a new policy, which will serve as a baseline for all sites to follow. Some schools may choose to add to the new dress code.

Any changes would likely take affect in the 2018-19 school year, Nelson said.

Aleksandra Appleton: (559) 341-3747 @aleksappleton