Delaney Clements is an 11-year-old girl in Colorado who is fighting neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that targets children. The treatment for her condition includes chemotherapy, which has caused her hair to fall out.
The pre-teenage years being what they are, a bald kid might feel awkward and self-conscious — but fortunately Delaney has a friend named Kamryn Renfro. Kamryn wanted to show support for her friend, so in a selfless gesture she cut off her own hair. Kamryn thought it was the right thing to do, and Delaney loved the gesture.
But Kamryn’s school had a different reaction. The Caprock Academy has a dress code that bans shaved heads, so the school wouldn’t allow Kamryn to attend classes on Monday.
Kamryn’s Mom wasn’t happy and posted a message about the school’s decision on Facebook. Delaney’s Mom did, too. And that provoked a firestorm of controversy with the Caprock Academy at its epicenter, one that overwhelmed the school’s website and telephone system. The school let Kamryn attend classes yesterday, and last night the school’s board of trustees voted 3-1 to waive the dress code in exceptional circumstances, such as when a child shaves her head to show solidarity for a friend who is dealing with cancer. (Amazing, isn’t it, that one of the trustees actually voted against such a waiver?)
There’s nothing wrong with reasonable dress codes. I imagine the original motivation for the bald head ban was concern about skinhead high school boys intimidating other students. Obviously, however, a young girl’s simple act of kindness is so far removed from that scenario — or any situation that might raise issues about safety, uniformity, and distractions, which are the stated reasons for the existence of the Caprock Academy dress code — that her ability to go back to school with a shining dome should never have been questioned. Any dress code policy that is so rigid that it produces a contrary result should be modified to give administrators appropriate discretion — or else the school eventually will end up wearing the dunce cap in the corner of the classroom.
Kamryn Renfro did a very nice thing — the kind of act that would make any parents proud of their child. It’s unfortunate that she had to miss a day of school because of her show of support for her friend, but as a result this student taught her school a valuable lesson about reasonableness and flexibility. Kamryn’s gesture may end up being more significant than she ever imagined.