Teen Barred from School Track Team for Dying Hair Pink in Support of Mom Who’s Battled Breast Cancer

pink-mohawkI get that in life we have “rules” and often times those rules exist for a reason.  But I also believe that in certain circumstances, rules are allowed to be broken.  Which is my stance when it comes to the story of Michael Barker, a junior in high school who was barred from competing for his school’s track team as long as he continued to have his pink mohawk.  The reason he has a pink mohawk is to show support for breast cancer awareness, in particular his mother who’s had breast cancer three times.

West Iron County School District has a dress code that prohibits fashion statements that are seen as a “distraction.”

“They told me to go back in the office. They told me the same thing, ‘You gotta cut it off’; I told them no, they told me ‘well you can’t run then’, then I told them I quit,” Barker said.

Upon hearing what had happened two of his track friends, senior Bryson Heimerl and senior Chasz Jonet, walked off the bus and quit the team as well.

“You don’t let somebody walk off and get treated like that and not support them,” Jonet said.

“It was an easy choice, a very, very easy choice to support Michael,” Heimerl said. “Without Michael and Chasz on the team, it’s just not the same.”

Again, I get the need for a dress code, but I do think exceptions can be made and common sense can be used.  It’s an extraordinary circumstance of a woman who’s battled breast cancer three times and the support her son wanted to show for her courageous battles with the terrible disease.

While it might technically violate the “dress code,” I don’t see why common sense can’t prevail and say that this “violation” shouldn’t only be allowed, but supported.

The stunning ignorance being shown here by this school district is embarrassing.  Instead of acting like human beings and using rational thought for this circumstance, they’re clinging to a subjective set of rules over what is or isn’t a distraction by not allowing Barker to show support for his mom and breast cancer awareness while still being a member of the track team.

Rulebook or not, any person who supports keeping Michael Barker off of the track team until he cuts his hair should be ashamed of themselves.  This isn’t a random act of rebellious defiance, it’s a show of support for not only his mother, but the fight against breast cancer.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


Facebook comments

  • Hope2002

    It’s too vague…distracting? I’ve seen most dress codes prohibit certain hairstyles, but they aren’t really followed. If this school allows mohawks or anyone else to color their hair then they have no standing.

  • screamingqueen

    West Iron County School District Takes Controversial Stance in Favor of Breast Cancer

  • Mrs_oatmeal

    Some people should not be allowed to influence children’s lives. Why was this even an issue?

  • wednesday

    It’s all about enforced conformity. Conformity at all cost. They say non-conformity is a distraction, but it wasn’t a problem 20 years ago. Why is it a problem now? Traits like creative thinking, which in the past indicated a gifted child, are now classified as an example of oppositional defiant disorder.

  • republic84

    Its easy, this school district/community supports and favors breast cancer. Monsters, nothing more, nothing less. There’s nothing wrong with a dress code, but as the author said, this is an extreme and special circumstance.

  • Eddie Krebbs

    Should I draw the obvious parallel between this and a general trend to have the rules at all costs without any thought about the rationale for the rules ? And how the Old Testament and New Testament both blast this approach. And how this is a very low level of moral development (although unfortunately, the highest level many achieve).

  • Bb

    Let him wear a pink ribbon instead. There are other ways to show support. And as one who has battled breast cancer I can tell you all the pink ribbons, tee shirts and Mohawks don’t do a thing.

    • suburbancuurmudgeon

      How about just letting him wear his pink hair? Who cares? I certainly don’t

  • rev

    I graduated high school 18 years ago. When I went there was bullying, but no one committed suicide. There was one kid who tried wearing his pants past his ass. A teacher bought him a belt for Christmas and he never did it again. Hair was all sorts of fashions and every color of the rainbow, no one was distracted. The only real rules for dress code was come in clean clothes, your body parts had to be covered, and no profane or sexually explicit language on your clothing. And no hats. We also kept score in all little league sports. There was no, here’s a trophy for trying. There was, we lost, let’s try harder. Our kids are being raised to be wimps and won’t know how to deal with real life. When I was in high school, if one member of the team did something like this, the whole team would join to show their support. Kids need to be taught how to be individuals and not just sheep in the herd.

  • William Knowles

    Before I read this I said it has to be the south, should have let them go in1894.

    • suburbancuurmudgeon

      Uh, I think that was 1861. And this was Iron River, Michigan. Sorry dude.

      • William Knowles

        Started in 1861 ended in 65 so could have walked away in 64 but point taken.

  • Kimberlee Bell Gasper

    It seems as though things like this — a student being punished in some way for an act of support — are happening more and more often. There was a story in the news this past week about a young girl in a Colorado school who was suspended after she shaved her head, which she did in support of a friend who was under going chemo treatment and had lost her hair. The school said it was “a distraction”.

    I guess it’s more important to enforce conformity, regardless of the message it sends (which in this case would be “don’t support anyone”), than to help people show their support for others.

  • AussieBilly

    when I was a student, all girl’s skirts had to cover their knees. Not too would be distracting to us boys. Look at skirts now. Such foolishness as restrictive dress codes have a purpose, but as pointed out by nearly all, common sense and decency ought to trump.

  • David Shaw Jr

    Rules are more important.

  • Sunshine

    When I was in high school, I wrote an article inspired by a girl in one of my classes who came in with her shirt inside out because it said ‘ta-tas’. It was a simple Save The Ta-Ta’s with a pink ribbon on it. As a response I wore my ‘Cancer can take my ta-ta’s but it can’t take my sexy’ shirt as a challenge. When an administrator told me to change, I told him I wore it in memory of my mother who’d had terminal breast cancer and that if I did, I’d post the story on every media website I knew. Luckily my journalism teacher had been friends with my mother.