Melrose sophomore fights school’s hair policy

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Sophomore Meghan Kline is collecting signatures in hopes of persuading Melrose schools to change its school dress code regarding hair color. She recently dyed red streaks into her hair, which is against school rules.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

When her 15-year-old honor student and daughter wanted to dye her hair black, she said OK.

When Melrose sophomore Meghan Kline wanted to add screaming red streaks, Jerri Kline again said OK.

But, “I told her ‘you’re going to have some repercussions for this, and she said ‘It’s my hair, why can’t I wear it the way I want to? Red is natural to me,” Kline said.

Jerri Kline was correct.

Within two days of Meghan wearing her new hairstyle at school, she got a call from the Melrose High School principal that her daughter’s hair violated policy and was a distraction.

Jamie Widner said the school’s dress code, drafted around 11-years ago, prohibits hair color that is not natural.

Upon learning her daughter’s hair violated the school’s dress code, Kline and Widner agreed any disciplinary action would be withheld until Kline could present her case to the school board and ask them to reconsider policy.

“I encouraged her to go. Will they change it? I don’t know. Will they consider it? Sure,” Widner said.

Jerri and Meghan Kline will be attending Monday night’s school board meeting in Melrose to present their case.

“I’m asking them to update the rule… I’m hoping that it teaches her that if there’s something that you don’t like, go through the channels and change it… I’m teaching her to stand up for what she believes in,” Jerri Kline said.

“She’s not a bad kid, she just wants to have her hair this color, this isn’t Russia for God’s sake. These are kids, they’ve got to express themselves.”

An honor roll student involved in many extra curricular activities with aspirations of going into forensic science, Jerri Kline said Meghan has done everything her parents have asked of her, been a model child and student and she wants her to be able to express herself.

“You’re going to be a child only for a while, but when you become an adult, you’re going to have to do adult things and conform. Let her enjoy life because you don’t know what kind of life she’s going to have tomorrow,” Jerri Kline said.

“She’ll outgrow it. Look at me, I don’t look like Janis Joplin anymore.”

Meghan Kline, who said she will change her hair to a natural color if the board requires it, has been collecting signatures from students supporting her hair color and has about 30 supporting signatures, which accounts for around a quarter of the student body at Melrose High School.

“I just want to know why…” Meghan Kline said. “I think the whole thing’s kind of stupid, having a fit about hair color.”

Widner, who was involved in drafting the dress code, said the school is a small one in a predominately conservative community.

When it was drafted, Widner said he brought together the dress codes of other area schools and the board selected the items they wanted in their school. A public forum was held involving local families and based on their input, the board ratified the final version.

Widner said the dress code also prohibits male students from having hair below their ear lobes or touching their collars.

“We’re a conservative community and our board is conservative,” he said.

Widner said the board has always taken a “common sense” approach to issues and encourages input from families.

Times change and standards change and policy makers understand that things sometimes need to be reevaluated. What that means for Kline’s request, Widner said he doesn’t know.

“I went to school here and I don’t know that there was ever a dress code but there was an expectation. Obviously you can’t address everything that’s going to come up… I never dreamed that this kind of stuff would be addressed.”

Widner said though the issue of boys with hair exceeding the prescribed length comes up frequently at the school, this is the first time there has been an issue involving unnatural hair color.