Vincent Schilling
Traditional Mohawk hairstyles, like this one painted by David Wright is a common style among Native youth among the Iroquois nations

Second-Grader Sent Home From School Because Traditional Mohawk 'Distracting'

Vincent Schilling

A Native 7-year-old second grader attending school at the Washington County School district in Santa Clara, Utah was sent home last week because his traditional Mohawk hairstyle was ' too distracting' to teachers and students.

The second grader, whose parents are from the Seneca and Pauite tribes, decided he wanted a hairstyle "popular to Native peoples" according to his father, but the school, Arrowhead Elementary called the student's mother to tell her it was against the dress code.

According to USA Today, the child was allowed to return to the school after Seneca Nation Tribal Council member William Canella wrote the school and stated the following:

“It’s disappointing that your school does not view diversity in a positive manner, and it is our hope that (the boy) does not suffer any discrimination by the school administration or faculty as a result of his hair cut.”

The boys father, Gary Sanden says he is sympathetic with the school who thought they were enforcing a dress code but says he wonders why had to jump through numerous hoops to just have his son's hairstyle approved. 

“I have two (sons) who go to Arrowhead,” Sanden said. “My other boy, he’s 10, didn’t want a Mohawk and went with the non-native haircut, kind of high and tight. So the principal says well, you have another son here who doesn’t have a Mohawk, why can’t you cut (the younger boy’s) hair that way too.”

Because he wanted to avert to much media attention, Sanden did not want to show his son's photo.

Ultimately Rex Wilkey, assistant superintendent over primary education says the exception lies within the cultural connection. "District policy allows for school administrators to judge what constitutes “distracting,” and such judgment calls are part of what always makes enforcement of a dress code difficult. Once it was shown that there was a cultural value attached to the boy’s haircut, he was allowed back into class."


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