Jakobe Sanden, a second grader in St. George Utah, walked into school last a week sporting a brand new Mohawk haircut—and within a matter of hours, he was marched into the principal's office.
Fox13Utah's reports that Arrowhead Elementary School principal Susan Harrah said a teacher had expressed concern that "students weren't used to it." Harrah, the TV station reports, apparently informed Jakobe's mother, Teyawwna, that her son would need a different haircut, one that would not cause "a distraction or disruption, interrupting school decorum and adversely affecting the educational process,” pursuant to the school district's dress code.
St. George, a town of about 78,000 two hours northeast of Las Vegas and the seat of Utah's Washington County, is 1.5 percent Native American, according to Census data.
The Washington Post reports that Sanden's father Gary said the family was outraged, and refused to make alterations. They said Jakobe had gotten the cut many times before.
“I told the superintendent I was in no means going to cut his hair because it’s a symbol of who we are,” Sanden, 43, told the Washington Post. Gary is a member of the Seneca Tribe, and his wife is a member of the Kaibab Band of Paiutes Indians.
The couple, Fox13 reports, appealed to the school district's superintendent, who "asked for letters from tribal leaders supporting the claim." They complied, and Jakobe was allowed to return to class. “I’m sure they didn’t intend it to be, but if felt like a form of discrimination,” Teyawwna Sanden told Fox13. “We didn’t want to take it there. We provided the papers, but we didn’t feel like it was right to let it go.”
Harrah told the Salt Lake Tribune that "it is common for family culture to conflict with school policy." "There's a protocol that we go through, and I felt like it was handled efficiently and that we respected their culture," she told the paper.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.