Some people have a bad hair day. Mabry Anderson has been having a bad hair week.
Mabry, a 16-year-old Tavares High School student, was told Tuesday that her fire-engine red hair violated the district's policy forbidding "unnatural" hair color. She was given a referral stating that she could not return to campus until she had changed her hair.
She stayed home two days, but chose to return Friday to keep from getting unexcused absences, said her mother, Cate Rettig, 50, of Tavares.
On the first day of school, new Principal Janice Boyd asked all students not to have "unnatural" hair color, but Mabry did not comply, School-district spokesman Chris Patton said.
The battle was on.
Mabry took to Facebook to rally students behind her cause. Her page, dubbed "Team Mabry," has logged more than 800 likes. Rettig said Mabry spent most of the school day Friday removed from class, completing work assignments in an office.
"I'm letting her fight her fight," Rettig said. "And the kids are standing behind her."
"It's definitely a freedom of expression issue," Mabry said of her effort.
By late Friday afternoon, principal Boyd decided to allow Mabry to return to class Tuesday after the Labor Day weekend.
With her red hair.
Mabry said it was because the principal decided her hair wasn't disruptive after all. Patton wouldn't comment on what changed Boyd's stance, but said the policy will be reviewed at an upcoming school board workshop.
"I think it was worth it," Mabry said, describing the outcome. "I get to have my hair now and no one gets to say anything."
The district's hair policy forbids "extreme hairstyles, unnatural hair colors, or make-up that is disruptive or does not allow direct eye contact."
Students who break the policy can face a dress-code violation punishable by a loss of privileges, verbal reprimand or work assignments. Patton said "unnatural hair colors" refer to any color that isn't brown, black, gray or the natural color of human hair.
Patton wouldn't comment on exactly what changed Boyd's stance, but said the policy will be reviewed at an upcoming school board workshop.
School Board Chairwoman Kyleen Fischer in 2011 originally suggested adding a policy forbidding "extreme hair." Fischer at the time argued that unusual hairstyles could distract from academics if students spent too long on preening.
School Board member Tod Howard said he lobbied to tweak the policy to allow hair color that is not "disruptive," but the term means different things for high schools and elementary schools.
"I argued that we need to add 'disruptive,'" he said. "And if it's not disruptive there's no reason for us to be removing these kids from class."