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 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."
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?