This action is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by minor
male high school students who have been expelled or suspended
from school, concededly because their hair length violated the
high school's dress code. The defendants are the Board of
Education of School District No. 84 in Union County, Illinois;
the Superintendent of the district; and the Principal of the
Shawnee Junior-Senior High School, located in Wolf Lake,
Illinois. The plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that the
Shawnee High School hair regulation is unconstitutional, a
permanent injunction against its enforcement, and an order
expunging from the high school's records any mention of the
disciplinary actions taken against plaintiffs under the hair
code. Pending this Court's disposition of the case on the
merits, the parties have agreed to an order permitting
plaintiff students to remain in school. The case was tried
before the Court on December 14, 1972, at Benton, Illinois.
In an earlier case involving a high school hair regulation,
the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
stated: "The right to wear one's hair at any length or in any
manner is an ingredient of personal freedom protected by the
United States Constitution." Breen v. Kahl, 419 F.2d 1034,
1036 (7th Cir., 1969).
This right arises from the First Amendment and the Ninth
Amendment, and is made applicable to the states via the due
process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. While the Federal
Circuits are divided as to the constitutionality of school
hair codes, the Seventh Circuit has spoken repeatedly and
forcefully on the issue. See Crews v. Cloncs, 432 F.2d 1259
(7th Cir., 1970); Arnold v. Carpenter, 459 F.2d 939 (7th Cir.,
1972). This Court is not without considerable sympathy for the
opinion expressed in Stevenson v. Wheeler County Board of
Education, 306 F. Supp. 97, 101 (S.D.Ga., 1969):
However, the issue is not one of first impression. In this
Circuit the burden is now on the school board to establish
substantial burden of justification for the hair code as
applied to male students. The above-cited cases have examined
several proffered justifications; the results have come very
close to establishing a rule of law that public high school
hair codes are per se unconstitutional.
Shawnee High School is a public high school organized under
the laws of the State of Illinois. Prior to the present
academic year the school had no formal hair or dress code.
Sometime prior to August 23, 1972, the Board of Education
directed the Principal, James B. Goggin, to formulate a
student dress code. This was done, and on August 23, Mr.
Goggin explained the existence of the code to the student body
at an assembly. The code, as amended in October, 1972,
contains the following provision:
Shortly after the commencement of classes, plaintiffs Larry
Copeland, Patrick Copeland, Robert Needling and James Jenkins
were suspended from Shawnee for being in violation of this
rule. On September 25, 1972, a hearing was held regarding
these suspensions, and the School Board subsequently expelled
these plaintiffs from school for being in violation of the
Plaintiffs Wesley Schultz and Roger Clarke were also
suspended, but their suspensions have been vacated by the
Defendants offered several reasons for the hair code.
Apparently at Shawnee the Junior and Senior High students are
together for much of the school day. Several witnesses,
including Dr. Altekruse, an expert on Guidance and Educational
Psychology, testified that such a situation was not desirable.
The fear was expressed that added pressure is placed on the
impressionable Junior High students to emulate the older
students. If high school students were permitted to grow long
hair and beards, these younger pupils would also want to. The
added pressure to "be mature" could harm the younger pupils,
claimed these witnesses.
Such undesirable educational results would seem to inhere in
any physical set-up in which the Junior and Senior High
Schools are commingled. The presence or absence of a hair code
could only be collaterally related to this problem. The fact
that a school's physical plant is less than ideal cannot
justify a denial to some of a constitutionally-based right.
Certainly the school authorities have ample power to deal with
problems caused by junior-senior student interaction as they
There was expert testimony that students with long hair are
disadvantaged academically because teachers have an
unconscious tendency to favor students with shorter hair. If
in fact long hair makes a student less popular with his
teacher, that is a result of the student's exercise of his
free choice. Numerous aspects of personal behavior affect the
esteem with which one is held by his teachers. There is
nothing inherent about long hair which detracts from academic
performance. See Breen v. Kahl, supra.
Likewise, defendants failed to establish any substantial
nexus between long hair and discipline problems. There was no
evidence of any actual disruptions due to hair length.
Apparently some students had commented to the Principal about
the the plaintiffs' hair. And there was speculation by the
Principal that it might be difficult to tell boys from girls
without a hair code. Such fears fall far short of meeting the
substantial burden which the defendants have. See Crews v.
The defendants also attempted to show that the hair code was
necessary for reasons of health and safety. Mr. Goggin, the
Principal, testified that boys take part in strenuous physical
education programs. Those with long hair are unable to shower
properly because their hair won't dry quickly enough, he
stated. This position is inconsistent with the policy toward
female students. Girls also participate in physical education,
and are required to take a shower. Yet there is no hair code
for girls. In any event, a similar reason was rejected as
insubstantial by the Seventh Circuit in Crews. Mr. Young and
Mr. Bittle, undustrial education teachers at Shawnee, testified
that their courses are attended virtually exclusively by boys.
Long hair can be a safety hazard around welding torches, motors
and similar machinery. These concerns do not properly
constitute substantial justification for a hair regulation, see
Crews v. Cloncs, supra.
Less drastic measures can be employed to further the
legitimate school interest in safety. Mr. Young admitted that
a hair net would satisfy safety needs while welding, although
industry frowns on the use of such hair-nets. Only one unit of
industrial education is required at Shawnee, and a student can
complete this requirement within one year. The wholesale
banning of all long hair is not justified by this occasional
safety concern. Girls are not forbidden from taking these
courses, yet they are permitted to wear long hair.
Thus the Court concludes that the defendants have failed to
satisfy their substantial burden of justification
of the hair regulation. This conclusion does not mean that the
school authorities have no legitimate interest in academic
performance, student behavior, or student health and safety.
What it does mean is that these very proper objectives can be
satisfied by narrower rules which do not infringe on the
constitutional right of the plaintiffs. For example, a student
can change his clothes when school is over for the day, but
hair length cannot be so readily altered. Thus, a school has
broader discretion in regulating clothes which may be worn at
school. Presumably a hair regulation could validly require
that a student's hair be clean and that he wear a hair-net or
head band when engaging in shop activities. If a hair
regulation is truly aimed at health and safety objectives,
then it should be applicable equally to boys and girls who
engage in similar activities.
It is difficult to conceive of a hair-length regulation in
a public high school which would be constitutional in this
Circuit. A high-school student has a federal constitutional
right to wear his hair as he pleases, regardless of whether
any political, racial, or religious expression is intended by
long hair. On the facts of the instant case, it cannot be said
that the defendants have shown a substantial justification for
The sanctions imposed on the plaintiff students are severe.
It is evident that equitable relief is necessary to remedy the
effects on them of the unconstitutional school regulation.
For the foregoing reasons, judgment in this cause is hereby
entered for the plaintiffs.
Wherefore, it is the order of this Court that:
(1) the portion of the Shawnee Junior-Senior High School
Dress Code relating to boys' hair is, as applied to high
school students, declared to be unconstitutional, as violative
of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution;
(2) the defendants, their successors in office, agents,
employees, and persons in active concert and participation
with them are hereby permanently enjoined from disciplining
plaintiffs for violation of the hair regulation;
(3) any record or mention of the suspensions, expulsions or
other disciplinary action taken against plaintiffs shall be
expunged from the records of the Shawnee School District, and
plaintiffs shall be permitted to make up school work missed
during involuntary absences relating to said disciplinary
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