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School Bullies Special Needs Boy

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When enforcing the dress code will crush a young boy's self-esteem and give school bullies more ammunition, shouldn't the rules be bent?

Dale Platts
Most kids will do anything not to stand out in school--no one wants to be teased for being different. Dale Platts knows all too well what being singled out feels like. Since he was a baby, Dale has had a medical condition called alopecia areata, which causes hair loss. Perpetual baldness has led Dale to keep his head covered with his cherished New York Yankees cap. The problem is, his school has a ban on baseball caps. So now, 13-year-old Dale stays home and is missing classes.

Dale contracted alopecia when he was 5 months old, which caused him to lose his hair, toenails and fingernails--but he wasn't uncomfortable about it until the relentless teasing began when he was 11 years old and entering middle school. Since then, he has never left the house without donning his cap.

His mother, Kenina Platts, 41, said: 'It's really cruel. I'm outraged the school can be so shortsighted. He wears the hat for medical reasons--it's not a fashion statement. Dale has to suffer at the hands of child bullies. Now the school itself is pressuring him and bullying him. It is punishing him for being bald." Dale makes his desire to end the conflict quite clear: "I just want to go to school and not get bothered." But the school doesn't seem to be budging. The head at Robert Pattison School says, "Baseball caps just give out the wrong impression."

Ryan McDonald

It's not the first time a boy with alopecia has run into trouble. Last month, 15-year-old Ryan McDonald of Tennessee, who also suffered from the disease, was shot and killed by a classmate at school. "Ryan was the target of endless teasing as a child. He tried to have a tough exterior--like a shield--to fit in," his uncle Roger McDonald said.

Bullying, a common part of everyday life for some kids, is compounded when a child stands out as being "different." Ross Ellis, founder and chief executive officer of Love Our Children USA, says, "Parents and the teachers should reach out and help kids understand what other classmates might be going through. Some schools are working towards change and programs to raise awareness about bullying, but Ellis thinks more needs to be done: "I feel the schools around the country could be doing a much better job teaching kindness and compassion."

When it comes to the dress code, should the school make an exception for a boy with special needs?

43 comments so far | Post a comment now
Nichole September 10, 2008, 12:53 PM

Of course the rules should be bent. its a medical condition. Dont they bend the rules when a child has a hurt arm or leg and has a doctor note to sit out in gym? The way i see it is the same thing….let the kid wear a hat!!

Anonymous September 10, 2008, 1:14 PM

My sister has this same disease and dealt with the same teasing all through school. Fortunately, the school that she attended made an exception for her and even went as far as expelling a student who continued to steal her hat.
The school administration needs to smarten up.
Get this, (Most)Insruance doesn’t cover wigs for people with alopecia —

Sonia Hernandez September 10, 2008, 1:31 PM

That a shame that kids these days tease and bully another kids in school. I think to school should make exepection for him. He is a cute boy who wants to learn like every another kids. The schools are not working hard to stop kids from bullying another kids in school and We has parents we try to protect our kids for harm. They need to teach these kids compassion in school and love.

PDD-Nos Mom September 10, 2008, 1:33 PM

Their insensitivity doesn’t surprise me. As a mom to an autistic child, I’ve dealt with discrimination from the school too.

I’m sure they wouldn’t be so stubborn if it was their kid…

Shelley September 10, 2008, 2:21 PM

My son goes to the same school, the kids there are teasing little f*ckers.
I feel for the poor little lad

SHANNA September 10, 2008, 2:39 PM

It is so important to teach our children compassion and tolerance at a young age. This story breaks my heart.

Mel September 10, 2008, 2:59 PM

I can’t believe that the school is refusing to bend the rules for that boy. The same kids that are being bullied are the same ones that go on to kill or commit suicide. I am not saying that is the case here, but bullying can end very badly for someone. They should nip it in the bud. My children’s school has a very strict no tolerance bullying rule. Let the boy wear a hat at school. There is no excuse for the school administrators to act so cruel towards someone with special needs.

M.L. September 10, 2008, 3:30 PM

This is so sad! How dare the school, as someone who was bullied in school, I really feel for this boy.

Jane September 10, 2008, 4:10 PM

Hmmm…I have to wonder why the school isn’t punishing the bullies, but then again I wonder what’s in the water up there that these kids indulge in this behavior anyway, especially when you read about kids in other places who have lost their hair and their classmates all go shave their heads in a show of support.

Karla Akins September 10, 2008, 4:54 PM

People are more important than policy. Why some anal educators don’t get it is something I will never understand.

Natalie September 10, 2008, 5:25 PM

Honestly, why don’t they just home school the kid? Everyone already knows the kid has the disease, so they’ll tease him anyway. Plus if they make the exception for him, or for any child with the disease, they’ll still be singled out.

Yeah, it really sucks that kids act like that, but that’s just how it is. You can’t change people. This boy will probably do much better being home schooled with other home schooled kids. They’re much more accepting of people.

Anonymous September 10, 2008, 7:35 PM

look…ryan mcdonald was my cousin and if the schools dont learn how to bend the damn dress code for the ones like ryan then they dont even need to be teachers it is rediculous how people can be tourtured like that the reason poeple bullie others is because their just mad cause they dont look like them and if anyone has a comment for me lets hear it….

debbie goldschmidt September 10, 2008, 9:34 PM

The school is doing nothing to stop the bullies and on top of that, they are fighting this child to keep him from an education by forcing him to endure humilation. His mother should learn the word LAWSUIT. This school needs a learn a lesson and unfortunately, the only way to teach them is through their wallets.

Gilly September 10, 2008, 11:25 PM

This is to Natalie and all the people with a “you can’t change people” attitude. YOU are the biggest threat to kids like this, to people that are different, to those that are picked on and knocked around. We can all see the bullies coming but your kind of indifference is sneaky and worse yet - catchy. It’s people like you that stand by while others are mugged, beaten, run over in the street. It’s people like you that only stop to take a picture of a dying person rather than help them. You MUST stand up in this world and fight for others besides yourself. YOU must. We cannot have the attitude that someone else will do it. If we all have that attitude then WHO WILL DO ANYTHING? I bet if you needed help you would want someone standing up for you and guess what? There are people that would, strangers that would be there at your side helping you fight whatever injustice has come your way. Why can’t you have the courage to do the same?

Katie September 11, 2008, 2:00 AM

The head at Robert Pattison School says, “Baseball caps just give out the wrong impression.”

Just what impression is that? “I support baseball” ??????
Give me a break! Let the kid wear the cap… it’s not the end of the world. I don’t see anything wrong with wearing caps, and really scratch my head at some of these dress codes lately.

To the people who think the kid should run away with his tail between his legs, and have his parents home school him… what the heck is he supposed to do when he graduates and needs to find a job? Stay home with mom and dad for the rest of his life? Get real and grow up!

Natalie September 11, 2008, 4:50 AM

You know, this isn’t even about the other kids. If he were my kid, you’re right. I wouldn’t fight like this. Simply because he’d still have to endure YEARS of being bullied in the public school setting even if he were to wear a baseball cap. He would STILL stand out because he’d be the only one wearing it. If he were my kid, I’d want him to get the best education possible WITHOUT the humiliation of being made fun of on a daily basis. That’s what I’m saying. Children these days are worse than ever with bullying, and there’s no way to change that because we can’t change their parents. It’s all in how they were raised. Yeah, it would be nice if we could change everyone, but the fact is that we can’t.

The school rule of no baseball caps is just that: a rule. There’s a reason for it, and just because this kid has a disease that makes him loose his hair doesn’t mean that he should be exempt from the rules! That’s like saying that because a girl has eczema on her arms, she has to wear a tube top to prevent any additional itching. I’m sorry if you don’t like my opinion, but it is what it is.

IMO, it’s whiny parents like this who make their children think that they don’t have to follow the rules. It only sets a bad example. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else! No one’s making him be in public school. And to Katie, no. He shouldn’t stay home. However, after he graduates from high school, the kids are much older, and MUCH less prone to bullying. Kids at 18 and 19 are much more accepting of people how they are, not for what they look like.

momoffour September 11, 2008, 6:44 AM

This is ridiculous. Let the kid wear his hat! And where are the parents of those bullies anyway? Where is this happening ~ some big city no doubt. Give me small town america any day.

Crisabella September 11, 2008, 8:58 AM

If we don’t believe people can change, they won’t. If we don’t show our neighbors how to be compassionate then they won’t be.

bob k September 11, 2008, 9:06 AM

My daughter age 7 has alopecia areata totalis (no hair anywhere on her head — including eyebrows and eyelashes). It is hard for her and she often says she wished she had hair. But the school, in Montgomery County, MD, has been extremely supportive. A key thing has been communication and information. In Kindergarten we sent a letter home to parents explaining her condition and that it was not life threatening or contagious, and made the point that she is like every other little kid and loves to have fun. My wife has gone into the classes and sat and talked with the kids and answer questions that come up. My daughter is really popular, thank God, and has lots of friends and playdates. We hope it stays that way throughout school. Oh — she choses not to wear a wig or hat, except every once in a while. But she has a choice in the matter — school wouold never get in the way, as it shouldn’t.

Sharon September 11, 2008, 9:21 AM

I am almost 40, and there was a boy in our high school who had alopecia. I don’t remember anyone really bugging him at all, and he had LOTS of friends. He did not wear a cap all the time, I personally think they handled the whole thing well. I mean is he hiding his head under the cap? Isn’t that just how he looks and he’s already hiding. Kids either know what’s going on or are going to wonder more about what’s going on if they are wearing a hat. I agree with Natalie…so now we can both be unpopular on this one. :-)

BTW My HS had approximately 500 kids per grade. Not small at all, but not a metropolis (it’s the entire cities kids)…I got hassled a WHOLE lot more than he did (I ended up quitting school in part because of it)…VERY STUPID!

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