By Batholith (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

April 3, 2017; Daily Mail

They fought the school dress code and the dress code won.

Students at Maplesden Noakes School in Maidstone, Kent, in England have or plan to shave their heads as part of the Brave the Shave cancer charity drive created by Macmillan Cancer Support. The school bans “extreme” hairstyles, and while it could be said that the total absence of locks is no hairstyle at all, the law-and-order school is having none of it and has already removed one student from classes until a suitable hair length is reached.

The idea behind Brave the Shave is to show solidarity with people who lose their hair from chemotherapy cancer treatment. Fifteen-year-old Raif Valery, with a thick bushel of black hair, is threatened with academic isolation if he goes ahead and crops his do as well. Raif has raised £250 as of the beginning of April.

His aunt, Henrietta Phillips, a teacher and cancer survivor, is bewildered by the tone-deaf enforcement for students with good hearts: “Why does the school think that it has the right to have a say in this? Young people have a choice in what they chose to do to their bodies. What Raif is doing is not illegal, or dangerous, or extremely uncouth.” Abigail Phillips, Raif’s mother, has started a petition to urge the school to waive its draconian policy to allow her son to shave his head for the charity; to date, she has garnered hundreds of signatures.

Raif is a repeat offender of sorts, having in the past violated his school’s dress code flagrantly by wearing black trousers in place of the required “mid-gray” hue. His mother, Abigail, pressed the choleric and controlling school on punishment for that offense: “Obviously, I agree they have to wear uniforms, but it is bordering on the ridiculous. These policies seem to be more about beating them into submission than anything else.” Dressed to oppress indeed.

These thoughtful students aren’t the only ones shaving their heads in sympathy with people who have cancer only to find themselves on the wrong end of the folly of follicular policy. In 2014, nine-year-old Kamryn Renfrom of Grand Junction, Colorado, shaved her head in support of a friend with cancer. Her school, Caprock Academy, initially suspended her from classes for violating its policy against shaved heads for girls. After much fist-shaking by Kamryn’s supporters and a shellacking by the press globally, the school granted her an exception and put the ban against baldness under review.

Interestingly, Brave the Shave drive is not universally appreciated; some folks, including those with cancer, have in the past called it “disrespectful,” with one cancer survivor traumatized by the campaign, saying that deliberately balding one’s self does not “make you brave” and that seeing it done “actually hurts my head from the ghost pains of when my hair was coming out during chemo.”

That’s another lesson to learn: In this world, little is entirely straightforward.—Louis Altman