When a defiant middle schooler was called into the principal’s office for breaking the dress code, he never imagined how the encounter would end. Although the boy initially refused to take off his hat, the principal changed his mind and quickly went viral for the way he handled the situation after a school resource officer shared photos of the incident on social media.
Anthony Moore, an eighth-grader at Stonybrook Intermediate School in Indianapolis, Indiana, was sent to the principal’s office after the seemingly defiant boy refused to remove a black beanie, according to SBLY Spotlight. However, rather than just calling the boy’s parents or removing the hat from the child’s head himself, Dr. Jason Smith, the principal of the school, decided to investigate the root cause of the child’s defiant behavior.
After a conversation with the boy, Dr. Smith realized the student was refusing to remove his hat because he was ashamed. Those of us who remember eighth grade understand why a student might be willing to run the risk of being punished for defiance rather than being bullied by his peers. Luckily for him, Dr. Smith was more than willing to step in and diffuse the situation in order for Mr. Moore to comply with the rules.
After a brief conversation, Dr. Smith learned that Anthony Moore was refusing to remove his hat because he was unhappy with his haircut. Although Dr. Smith didn’t see an issue with the boy’s hair, he understood that the student wasn’t happy with it, resulting in his refusal to remove the hat, WTHR reported.
“His barber messed his hairline up. Me and Miss Rivers thought that his hairline looked fine, but he was adamant about not taking his hat off,” Smith recalled.
Rather than insisting that the boy must comply with the school rules, regardless of how he felt about his haircut, Dr. Smith decided to strike a deal with Anthony Moore instead of penalizing him for his defiant behavior. However, since it was a snowy February day when the incident occurred, that meant braving icy roads. Apparently, nothing was too much for his students, though. So, Dr. Smith grabbed his keys.
“I said, ‘Hey, if I line you up, if I fix your line, will you take the hat off and go to class?’ and he said ‘yes,'” Smith said. “Coming back to school I almost got stuck in the front of my house, because the side streets haven’t been cleared,” he recalled.
Having braved the snow-covered roads in order to hold up his end of the bargain, Dr. Smith returned to the school after retrieving his hair clippers from home. He then made good on his promise, cleaning up Anthony Moore’s hairline to the boy’s satisfaction. During the haircut, Warren Township School Police Officer Lewis Speaks snapped some photos, and with permission, he posted them to Facebook, where they went viral within hours.
“Instead of putting the child out of school, this is what our principal Mr. Jason Smith did after he had a long talk with the student,” Officer Speaks wrote in the caption. “And guess what happen after that…..the student thanked the principal, apologized for his behavior then went to class.”
Indeed, as promised, Anthony returned to class with his hat, holding up his end of the deal, just as his mentor had done. And, unsurprisingly, Dr. Smith received a lot of love for how he handled the situation with his student, having come up with a solution that was appropriate for the circumstances. But, this school principal gave his student more than just a haircut. He also built a relationship with him and used the opportunity to talk to the boy about his future.
“I try to bring up possible careers and things like that to try to get him to think about the future and to dream and set goals,” Smith said. “We work really hard at building relationships and making connections with our kids and doing whatever it takes for them to be successful.”
Dr. Jason Smith, an Arlington High School alumnus, credits now-retired principal Dr. Jackie Greenwood for pushing him to consider teaching because young black boys need to see men like him in the classroom. While I understand Dr. Greenwood’s sentiments, I would be amiss if I didn’t point out that all children, regardless of race, could use more men like Dr. Smith in education because the results of his problem-solving, where a difficult child was concerned, speak for themselves.
Following the haircut, Anthony Moore was reportedly doing better in school, proving this was a win for everyone. Sometimes, punishment is necessary. Other times, it does nothing to actually solve the problem at hand. Dr. Jason Smith seemed to realize this, and rather than falling back on a blanket dress code policy, the educator did some creative problem-solving that actually produced the desired results. That’s definitely something we could use more of in education because this is what true leadership looks like.