September 13, 2002 at 9:28 PM EST - Updated August 2 at 5:13 AM
ASHTABULA, Ohio (AP) - Seventh-grader Josie Kmiec's patriotic ponytail caused school officials in this northeastern Ohio town to see red.
The 12-year-old was sent home Wednesday from West Junior High School by her principal for spray painting her hair red, white and blue with temporary coloring.
"I thought it was a good way to show my patriotism because it's Sept. 11," Josie said about the anniversary of last year's terrorist attacks. "But the principal got upset about my appearance and told me to call my mother to come pick me up."
Her mom, Janis Kmiec, arrived at 8 a.m. and said Principal Sherry Cooley told her that Josie violated the student handbook, which states that clothing should not distract from the learning environment.
"I'm very upset and disappointed because Josie was really excited about going to school like that and then she ended up missing class," she said. "They squashed her right to self-expression."
Superintendent William Licate said Thursday the discipline code says students can't attract undue attention to themselves.
"That code is a district-wide policy but sometimes it is how you interpret it," Licate said. "(The principal) thought it caused undue attraction to wearer."
Licate said Cooley told him the girl washed the color from her hair and was back in class by third period.
A message seeking comment was left at Cooley's office Thursday.
Josie's 15-year-old brother, Jake, sprayed red, white and blue hair color on his head in the shape of the American flag.
"Lakeside High didn't have a problem with it," he said.
Ashtabula is 53 miles northeast of Cleveland.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)