School Releases Statement after Coloring Student's Head with Magic Marker

Villa Angela - St. Joseph High School's Student handbook was formulated as a guide for all students, parents, faculty, staff and administrators to follow in order to maintain an appropriate environment for education. Contained within the handbook is an extensive passage regarding the "Code for the Pesonal Appearance of Students." This code is designed to stress conformity and personal modesty in school attire suitable to learning.

When a student enrolls at VASJ, there is an awareness and understanding that individual dress has specific restrictions and that violation or misinterpretation of the dress code will result in disciplinary action. This is reviewd with parents and students on multiple occasions. Circumstances arise where students, especially freshman and those new to the school, are afforded multiple chances to comply with the handbook, and, more specifically, the "Code for the Personal Appearance of Students." Often, a short-term, temporary solution is agreed upon between the student and a teacher and/or administrator so that a prolonged absence from classroom activity is avoided. Freshman Levert Cod is an example of this.

On August 23rd, VASJ Prinicpal Janice Roccosalva escorted Levert Cox to the office of VASJ's Dean of Students, Jeff Slavkovsky. Mr. Slavkovsky handles the administrative enforcement of the Student Handbook. It is well established in that handbook that the administration has the final decision in all matters regarding policies contained within it, as well as the interpretation of any violation. In Levert's case, it was determined by both administrators that he had a carving in his hair that violated the school's "Code for the Personal Appearance of Students."

Levert was informed of this violation, yet was permitted to stay in school that day, as he was given the benefit of the doubt as a freshman who may not completely understand all of the rules. However, he was instructed by Mr. Slavkovsky that on the following day, August 24th, he would not be admitted to any classroom activities if his hair remained the way it was. Levert stated that it would grow out in a week, which wasn't a suitable remedy for Mr. Slavkovsky.

In working with Levert as a new student, yet still following school policy and procedure, Mr. Slavkovsky gave him two options: a) to have his hair cut short enough so that his head carving would disappear, or b) to use an eye line pencil or some sort of make-up or other cover up as a temporary fix. Levert was then to report to Mr. Slavkovsky on August 24th prior to school day beginning to show that he had complied.

On the morning of August 24th, Levert did report to Mr. Slavkovsky's office priort to the school day beginning, but with nothing done to his hair to fix the code violation. According to Slavkovsky, Levert responded that his mother would not take him to a barber shop and that she did not have an eyeliner pencil for a temporary fix, thereby disregarding Mr. Slavkovsky's options to remedy his appearance violation.

At this point, Mr. Slavkovsky did not wasnt Levert to miss any more classes due to the appearance violation. The option of covering up the head carving was once again given to Levert, who gave no objection to the scenario. An eyeliner pencil was not available, so the option of using a Crayola washable marker was offered, to which Levert once again did not give any objection when asked. In fact, according to Mr. Slavkovsky, Levert stated that he would only have to put up with it for one day, as he planned to get his haircut over the weekend. Mr. Slavkovsky then asked VASJ's receptionist Birtha Ealy is she would assist him in the matter, as she was the one who possessed the washable markers. Mrs. Ealy then asked Levert to make another choice: a)to cover his head carving up himself, or b) if he'd prefer her to do it for him. Levert made the decision for Mrs. Ealy to cover the head carving up for him. Mrs. Ealy asked him one more time if he was sure about his decision, for which he replied "yes." Once the head carving was covered up, Levert was then permitted to return to his classes for the day, with the understanding that the code violation would be remedied over the weekend.

At VASJ, students are treated as young adults who are given the opportunity to make choices regarding their conduct and behavior. The majority of dress code infractions, as they are not generally considered major handbook offenses, are handled in this way. There is an expectation that each student will make the choice to comply with the administration's decision or be disciplined according to the handbook. Often, the added responsibility of notifying the parent of these choices lies with the student. Rather than the dramatic step of suspending Levert or sending him home until his violation was fixed, VASJ administrator chose to give him the choice of a temporary cover-up solution.