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Staff File Photo By Robin Rudd / Silverdale Baptist Academy, a private, Christian K-12 school, is located on Bonny Oaks Drive.

The fact that a local private school had to triple its security force in the face of threats because it wouldn't relax its dress code to suit a potential student speaks volumes about how far off the track the country has careened.

We believe protests across the country last summer in the wake of the death of suspect George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers have given rise to a permissiveness that says if someone wants to do something, they should be able to do it, regardless of what laws and regulations are in place.

> Witness, for instance, the lack of concern that many people have that immigrants who cross the country's Southern border without permission are breaking the law.

> Witness the aforementioned protests in spite of regulations across the country that in some cases forbid, and in some cases suggested, that certain numbers of people not gather in the same place because of the danger from the raging coronavirus global pandemic.

When in the spring of 2020 people in some states rallied to protest that their jobs be reopened and that they be able to resume making a living to support their families, they were called to task and shamed for risking people's lives. When the Floyd protests raged across the country only weeks later, they were supported by the same governors and mayors who said the work protesters were the worst kind of Americans.

> Witness Chattanoogans who blocked emergency vehicles last summer in order to, as one participant said, demand "real change."

> Witness state election boards that last fall, contrary to state laws that determined when election changes could be made, changed laws anyway to be more permissive as to whose votes could be counted, and when and how they could be counted.

Into this milieu came Darishia Howell, who was considering sending her son to Silverdale Academy in the fall. Assuming he was eligible to attend in all other ways, she was told he would have to cut his long dreadlocks to comply with the school dress code.

The school's dress code, according to Head of School Becky Hansard, states male students have their hair cut above their collarbone.

The rules are similar at other local private schools.

The regulations at 134-year-old Belvoir Christian Academy (the former Lutheran School), for instance, specify: "Hair must be neat and well groomed. No Mohawks, fauxhawks, hair carvings or extreme haircuts or colors. For boys, the length of hair should not exceed the top of the shirt color. Eyes and ears must be seen."

Grace Academy says this: "Hairstyles are to be conservative, neatly groomed, with hair out of face and eyes, no unnatural hair color, no long spikes, and head not shaved."

Hansard said the hair policy helps identify which students "should be on our campus," she told WRCB, and helps the student prepare for the workplace where in many cases they will have to follow the policies of their employers.

She said Silverdale has periodically changed its dress code since opening in 1999 and reviews its rules every summer.

Unfortunately, since the student is Black and the school largely (90.6%) white, the issue became racially tinged rather than a simple case of "my house/my rules."

Hansard told WRCB she had received threats from around the country.

"When those phone calls started and the sheer violence of them and the content of the message," she said, "we knew we could not ignore that, so yes, we tripled our security force."

Howell's words seem to indicate she believes her son's personal dress code is more important than his education.

"OK, since my son has dreads," she told the television station, "he can't get into a private school and better his education. I wanted him to beat the odds. I wanted him to be accepted into a private school regardless of his hair."

Should the school accept students who do not adhere to the school's uniform policy? Who bring a weapon to school? Who do not choose to do homework for the entire year? Whose parents do not pay their tuition?

No, when you start making exceptions to rules that have been put in place for everyone's safety, security and academic rigor, you eventually find you don't have many rules at all. That's called anarchy, and that's not a good scene for a school, much less for a country.

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