UPDATE ON THE LAW: Twenty-Five Years Later: Schools and School Districts--Discipline of Students--Committee May Compel a "Proper Haircut" as Part of Mode of Dress Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 1990 New England School of Law
New England Law Review

UPDATE ON THE LAW: Twenty-Five Years Later: Schools and School Districts--Discipline of Students--Committee May Compel a "Proper Haircut" as Part of Mode of Dress

Fall, 1990

25 New Eng. L. Rev. 215

Author

Lynda M. Grandinetti *

Excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

In 1965, in Leonard v. School Committee of Attleboro, 1 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the right of a public school committee to compel "proper haircuts" of students, in order to maintain discipline and decorum in the classroom. The court viewed this right of the committee as one of many discretionary functions necessary to the safe and orderly operation of our public schools. 2 Compelling a student to conform to regulations regarding dress and hairstyle in order to retain the privilege of attending public school may have appeared "arbitrary and capricious" 3 to the general public in 1965, and perhaps still does in 1990.

There have been myriad decisions over the last two decades regarding the Constitutional rights of school children, 4 but relatively little has been decided in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on the subject of personal liberty or autonomy as it relates to dress and hairstyle. Over the last quarter century, less than a half-dozen such cases have been heard in this state, all with the same result. 5 Massachusetts courts have consistently refused to intervene in support of personal autonomy in those cases involving the discretionary authority of an administrative agency. 6 However, those cases couched in terms of a federal question or civil rights violation, or those involving adults, have reached the opposite result. 7

In his 1965 article which appeared in the Portia Law Journal, 8 Daniel L. Seltzer reported on a precedent setting ...
 
 
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