Friday, January 7, 2011

Sometimes, a lawsuit makes matters worse

The parents of an Indiana 8th grader have decided to sue the school district because their child was booted off the basketball team at his school-----for refusing to cut his hair.

Before I go any further, let me offer a little personal disclosure. I spent two seasons at a Christian school in my home city. The second year, the school decided to start an athletic program. Because of the small enrollment, we only had two sports. Soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter. The only way you got to play was by earning privileges, usually by reciting a specific Bible verse to the teacher. There were, as memory serves, three levels of privileges. The same thing applied for other extracurricular activities such as field trips.

The point I'm trying to make here is that the Greenfield district in Indiana believes that playing sports is a privilege, not a right. How exactly that is defined, I don't know, but most schools offer pre-season tryouts. For example, fall sports such as soccer & football have tryouts about 4-6 weeks before school starts, allowing for the now-common practice of training camp for high school sports during the dog days of summer.

In Patrick & Melissa Hayden's case, they believe their son is being discriminated against because of how he wears his hair, so they sued the school district. The district maintains that they do have a dress code as it pertains to hair. It has to be above the eyes & ears. I realize the policy may be several decades behind the times, but there is no unilateral, nationwide policy for all schools to follow, and thus each district, in each state, will establish their guidelines as they see fit. The Haydens believe their son's preferred style falls under the First Amendment right to Freedom of Expression. Theirs, unfortunately, is a losing battle, unless they find someone who can come up with a convincing enough argument to sway the judge hearing the case.

Filing a lawsuit, as the Haydens have, is actually a mistake that so many people have made, opting for litigation for the smallest of issues. It's the way our society operates nowadays, and some can blame the original People's Court in the mid-80's, because of its popularizing small claims courts, for this societal condition. From where I sit, however, the Haydens are wasting their time and money, and that of the Indiana taxpayers as well, by filing what amounts to frivilous litigation. If they'd cared to read the district guidebook, assuming they have one, they wouldn't be in this fix.

When I attended the Christian school in the 70's, I had to adhere to the dress code. No problem. I've always worn my hair short, anyway. Wearing a dress shirt & tie to class? No big deal, either. In a way, that prepared me for my current job. So why are the Haydens raising a stink over a relatively minor school rule? Because to them, it amounts to a glaring case of disrespect toward their son. Maybe they need to read the guidebook, as a family, call off the suit, and move on. That way, everyone's happy, and life can go on.

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