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Cutting controversy: School officials remove designs in student’s hair despite parents’ objections

January 22, 2014
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

A trendy haircut for a young student at a Lehigh Acres school may not end with what school officials did, now that an attorney has been called by his parents who say the school did wrong by cutting their son's hair.

An 11-year-old Lehigh Acres student was sent to the office after he came to school with a haircut somewhat different than his classmates. His stepfather, Arnaldo Fernandez, a barber with Cutting Edge Barbershop at 1432 Lee Blvd. in Lehigh, had cut and designed his hair publicizing his son's favorite team, the Miami Heat. He had been to see a game in Miami over the winter break.

But the hair style and cut didn't make school officials at Harns Marsh Elementary School jump for joy, fan of the Heat or not.

Article Photos

Danny Valdes’ haircut was for a Miami Heat game he and his stepdad attended over winter break. School officials cut the boy’s hair without permission.

Danny Valdes' haircut included a design of the Miami Heat logo, the Miami skyline, and the numbers 305, Miami's area code. His stepdad took photos of the haircut after he had come up with the trendy style.

His stepdad says their barbershop often cuts designs into young men's hair today because it has become a stylist fad mainly with young people. In fact, it promotes such hairstyles on its front entrance.

The Harns Marsh Middle School's assistant principal called Danny into her office because she said his haircut was in violation of school policy.

Valdes' stepfather was called and he said he would cut his hair and remove the designs when he arrived at his barbershop after school.

"But they went ahead and cut his hair and removed the design without my permission," Fernandez told The Citizen.

"The people at school said the boy would not be allowed to go back into his classroom with the haircut and that a school resource officer, and the school's counselor and vice principal told him he would have to spend the day in suspension, away from the classroom, unless his hair was cut and that is what they did," Fernandez said.

"My wife and I are not happy about the incident since we had agreed on the phone that I would cut his hair if that was against school policy, but they had no right to cut my son's hair.

"I have contacted an attorney," Fernandez said.

According to accounts, the school's counselor shaved Danny's hair so he could return to class, saying the stepfather had approved of the in-school haircut.

"The bus brings him in front of our barbershop each day after school and I told them I would cut his hair," Valdes' stepfather said. "I did not tell them to cut his hair."

Danny's mother said she wonders where the clippers come from that they used in school and she wonders how sanitary they were and who had used them before.

According to news accounts, Amity Chandler, director of communications for the Lee County School District, told a Miami NBC television station that several witnesses have verified that Fernandez did give the school counselor permission to cut Danny's hair to avoid an in-school suspension.

But Chandler admits that the action should not have taken place.

"While the school counselor followed the wishes of the student and instructions of the student's stepfather that were provided over the phone in the presence of several witnesses, the District acknowledges the action taken by personnel were not appropriate," Chandler said.

The boy's stepfather said that his son told him that he was told his hair had to be cut or he could not go back to class, so that is what happened, he said.

Not only have Danny's mom and stepdad said they were looking at switching their son to a different middle school, they are going to find out what their rights are from the attorney and go from there.

"They told me on the phone that his haircut that I had done was 'gang-related' and 'too distracting.' That is absolutely not so," he said.

Since the incident, the story about the school's clipping the boy's hair has gone viral throughout the Internet and on NBC TV stations and in several newspapers and other news outlets.

The family said over the weekend that they have transferred their son to Varsity Lakes Middle School because their son didn't want to return to Harns Marsh.

"Danny is a good kid. He is not into gangs and all that stuff and I told them that," Hernandez said.

From Danny: "I wanted to get my hair like that to show how proud I am of my Heat." That's what Danny Valdez told the TV station.

He wore his hair that way to the game during the winter break and had kept the haircut when he returned to school two weeks ago.



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