Compassion or conformity?

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Frankly Speaking with Frank Likely

Back in the early 70s, there was a popular Canadian television program called “This is the law.”  The show featured a number of short sketches in which the hapless lawbreaker would violate some obscure, arcane law which was still on the books somewhere in Canada. After the sketch was shown, a panel would then have to try and identify the law which was broken.

I thought of this program recently when |I read about a young third grader in Colorado who was suspended from school for a violation of her school's code of conduct.  Her offence: She had shaved her head in support of a classmate who is undergoing treatment for cancer.

The charter school has a very detailed code of conduct and the section on “Ladies hair” specifically says “No shaved heads.”  Under the policy a ladies hair must be “natural looking and conservative in colour.” 

The code of conduct even lists the colours of acceptable hair accessories, it is that detailed. That is the law at that school.

I fully support a school having a code of conduct. Some guidelines are definitely needed when trying to deal with classes of 20 or 30 young people. But the guidelines must be reasonable, and I believe, they should also help in the development of the young people.  The guidelines at this particular school seem aimed only at achieving a level of conformity and compliance among the students.

This young third grader showed great character by her selfless act. She showed the school that some regulations need to be set aside in the interests of compassion and caring. 

The suspension was overturned a couple of days later by a school board vote of 3-1.  Yes, one member of that board still does not get it. Schools are there not only to teach the basics, but also to help develop the character of the young people so they may be productive members of society in later years. This one board member clearly sent the message that she values conformity over compassion. That's not a lesson I would want taught in any school.


Frank Likely is a retired Anglican minister and past president of the Springhill and Area Chamber of Commerce.


Organizations: Springhill, Area Chamber of Commerce

Geographic location: Canada, Colorado

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