Wheelersburg Local School District has limited how one young man has chosen to “Paint It Pink” in honor of breast cancer awareness.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Wheelersburg High School student Drake Mougey went to school this week sporting pink hair as a way of honoring the women in his life who have been impacted by the disease. However, after arriving to school, Mougey was met with opposition and was told to change his hair color or not go back to class.
“As I understand it, Drake reported to school with his hair dyed pink, and the principal and Drake had a conversation because that is in violation of our student handbook,” Wheelersburg Superintendent Mark Knapp explained. “Other than that, I’m not sure that there is anything to say. He was not suspended. Generally, when students have a violation of the handbook or dress code, they are asked to correct that. Evidently, he felt there was not an immediate correction that he could do. ”
Knapp added that Mougey was not sent home. Rather, he says the student chose to go home.
“Well, he didn’t get suspended,” Mougey’s mother Tammey Henry, of Wheelersburg, agreed with Knapp. “They (school officials) told him he couldn’t come back until he changes his hair back to its natural color. Here’s what happened, he dyed the top of his hair pink for breast cancer awareness month in support of me, his grandmother, his great-grandmother and all those who have dealt with it. He went to school. As soon as he got there, they told him he was to either go home and change it or sit in a room alone until the end of the day. He sat in a room until I went and got him. They (school officials) said it (Mougey’s pink hair) was inappropriate. It has in their handbook, no outrageous hair color or styles; it’s up to the principle to decide what that may be.”
Knapp explained that the school has had some within the district dress up in honor of breast cancer awareness. Still, he says students are expected to follow the rules.
“Yeah, we’re aware of breast cancer. It’s not that we don’t support that. I believe there are some T-shirts being worn by different staff members and students,” he commented. “I don’t think the students were given any particular direction about breast cancer awareness. A lot of times, you will hear people refer to it as ‘Paint It Pink’ or something like that. That’s SOMC’s (Southern Ohio Medical Center) local promotion. But, no I don’t think our kids were given any particular direction. They are expected to follow the handbook regarding dress code unless there’s a special circumstance.”
Henry stated that when she and her son went to talk to the school, they were also explained the rules from the student handbook. However, she said that she did not feel respected by the school; furthermore, Henry said the rules are not always consistent.
“[L]et me tell you, my son and I both were treated terrible when we went to talk with them (school officials),” Henry explained. “We ended up just leaving, so I decided to contact the school board. We shall see if that makes any difference.”
Since her son has been attending Wheelersburg schools, Henry says that she is aware of the school supporting students coloring their hair for school spirit.
“Now they can’t support the pink for breast cancer awareness, but they can on Fridays with sports. They can color it orange and black,” she confirmed.
Knapp further supported this statement, saying, “There are times when the buildings are having some sort of event, and they will give the students leeway on the dress code – Crazy Orange and Black Day, for like a spirit day or spirit assembly. I think at Halloween time they (school administrators) give them some slack to dress up, that sort of thing.”
Knapp also added that the school district was not aware that Mougey’s mom had battled breast cancer until after the confrontation. Knapp also stated that Mougey had made no prior arrangements to get permission to have pink hair.
Since the incident, Henry and Mougey have decided to try another school district.
“Now, ‘Burg is a great school. I will say that. But, their ways are set in the 70s, so my son decided to go ahead and change schools. He is now going to Green where they accept his hair and his support,” Henry said. “[M]y son is just ready to move on. He’s been through a lot these past few days, and I am so proud of his decision. He is truly a great kid. These schools and our community, our county needs to focus on the more important issues and not hair, you know. Anyway, he has chosen to just move on, go to Green and enjoy the rest of his school year. Again, ‘Burg is a good school in education, but it’s time for them to give some respect where they don’t. My son felt he had no choice but to move schools. He is standing for what he believes in, and I’m very proud of him.”
Knapp stated he is aware that Mougey has decided to change schools.
“Sorry the person felt that way, but we do have a handbook and we try to adhere to that policy. That’s really about all there is to the story. It’s not that big a deal,” he commented.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.