Louisiana, especially the rigidly conservative Protestant part of the state from Alexandria northwards, has a real problem with separating church and state. If you have ever spent any time in the state, you’d know what I’m talking about; if you don’t, bear in mind that the governor wanted to slash college funding but keep tax breaks for his ultra-religious reality show friends at Duck Dynasty up in West Monroe.
Up Interstate 49 in Alexandria, a student is being kept from going to school because he’s in violation of one of their rules. It’s a completely asinine rule in a public school, not a private religious school, and the fact that this is even a news story shows how backwards and contradictory this state can be. What’s so harmful about this child that he’s being suspended until he falls into line with their policies? Maybe his family refuses to vaccinate him or allows him to participate in other behaviors that put other kids at risk? Nope, it’s his hair. Ashton Bodiford has long hair, and because of that, he has to stay home until it is cut.
Three members of the Rapides Parish School Board on Thursday unanimously upheld a suspension of a fifth-grader because his hair length violates district policy. But the case could lead to a change in the policy before next school year.
Ashton Bodiford, 11, has missed more than 40 days of school since being told March 5 that he could not return to J.B. Nachman Elementary in Alexandria until he cut his hair to meet policy — no longer than chin length in the back or 3 inches on top for male students. Ashton’s hair falls to the middle of his back. He wore it pulled back in a ponytail and donned a uniform for the hearing to show how he looks each day for school.
He will not be allowed to return to school for the final nine days of the semester unless he cuts his hair, according to the board’s Discipline Review Committee. (Source)
The family, which moved to Louisiana from Colorado a couple of years ago, finds the rule to be ridiculous – with just cause. They rightly point out that there is no hair length requirement for girls, and that the standards are unequal.
What’s more, the child claims that the length of his hair is partly due to religious reasons, which the school district doesn’t have a right to enforce policies against so long as it isn’t harming others.
Ashton told the committee during his testimony that Jesus was one of the reasons he chose to grow out his hair three or four years ago.
“Jesus had long hair,” he said. “He just inspires me. … (My hair) makes me who I am. It shows who I am as a person.” (Source)
The funny thing is that Louisiana really prides itself on the very blurred line between church and state, and regularly gives the finger to the modern world by doing things like displaying “In God We Trust” at city council meetings, or even allowing the teaching of creationism in public schools. One Louisiana lawmaker recently introduced the “Marriage and Conscience Act” which is little more than a bill designed to boost Bobby Jindal’s extremely slim chances at securing the Republican nomination in 2016 by appealing to the religious right. However, the state already has a religious freedoms law on the books, which you would think applies to Ashton Bodiford’s situation.
The Rapides Parish school district and state lawmakers seem to be all about “religious freedom” so long as it is enforcing the clean-cut conservative version of Protestant Christianity that pervades Louisiana and the rest of the Bible Belt. I wonder how the long-haired hippy Jesus would have felt about these hypocrites who claim to be his greatest followers?
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