Central Florida student allowed to keep hair color, return to school

By Erik Sandoval, Reporter, esandoval@wkmg.com
Shaun Chaiyabhat, Reporter, schaiyabhat@clickorlando.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 04:47:09 AM EST
Updated On: Aug 30 2013 07:02:40 PM EDT

A student's fight to keep her bright red dyed hair has pitted her against a two-year-old district policy demanding "natural" hair color.

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. -

A Central Florida high school student will be able to return to class next Tuesday after refusing to change her bright red dyed hair sparked controversy.

[MORE VIDEO: Girl meets with high school principal]

Mabry Anderson knows her dyed red hair catches looks, but she never expected it to cause her trouble at school.

"I didn't want it to be such a big issue. I just wanted to go to school," said Anderson. "I felt harassed. It got to the point where I have anxiety going to school."

Last Monday, Tavares High School leaders told her that her hair violated school rules and gave her a week to change it.

Two years ago, the district changed policy to say student hair color had to be natural. This year, the color was deemed out of line, even though the high school junior has had the same color for three years.

"It's never been a problem before," Anderson said. "It's my First Amendment right for freedom of expression and it's being taken away."

She gets her color from a box and argues it is a natural color -- for some. The question she raises: What is natural and what is not?

Parents at Tavares High School sounded off.

"If it was something crazy, where it was all different colors or a different cut, sticking up it would be one thing, but her haircut is fine," said one parent.

"They're always going to have to think they have to fit into the norm, and they have to conform themselves to what everyone else expects," said another parent.  "I don't think that's fair, especially to a teenager."

It's a tough position for her mom, who admits the color stands out. But after her daughter left school crying, Cate Rettig, feels like her daughter is being treated unfairly.

"She's a new principal. I feel she's flexing her authoritative muscle," said Rettig.

They've taken the fight to Facebook and plan take it to the school board, but for now, Anderson won't change.

Anderson was told not to come back with that bright colored hair, and so she stopped coming to school rather than risk getting in trouble for breaking the Student Code of Conduct.

A Lake County School District spokesman said on Thursday the policy stands, and the hope is that Anderson returns to school.

Local 6 learned on Friday afternoon that Anderson will be able to return to classes on Tuesday with her red hair after the principal decided it was no longer a distraction.

The issue of dress code will be brought up at a specially called school board meeting on Tuesday at 2 p.m. originally designed to address the busing issue.

Watch Local 6 for more on this story.

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