As the opening bell rang at Beatrice Middle School for the last day of school, some students entered the building with pink and purple hair, tank tops and shorts.
The group of students said they use their appearance to express themselves and show their personality.
Tuesday was no different.
Students dyed their hair and wore "questionable" clothing to protest what they feel is an unfair dress code that favors some students over others.
Eighth-grader Kayla Williams, who said she’s been sent home in the past for inappropriate clothing, said the school’s dress code isn’t fair to students because it favors athletes.
“We’re still trying to figure out who we are and that’s our freedom of expression,” she said. “We should be able to wear what we want. What’s weird about it is there’s sporty and athletic people who wear shorts that you can actually see their butt and they don’t get dress-coded. And it’s because of their last name.”
Staff at the middle school and Beatrice Public Schools Superintendent Pat Nauroth declined to comment regarding the school’s dress code.
Around a dozen students participated in the protest. Noah Kipf, with purple hair and wearing a Jurassic Park tank top, was one of four students told he couldn't remain in school shortly after 8 a.m.
“They didn’t much care about the tank top, it was just the purple hair,” Kipf said. “You’re able to do it in high school, why can’t you do it in middle school? It’s diversity. If you want to do it you should be able to do it. It’s like they want everybody to be the same.”
Kipf’s stepfather, Cody Melton, had similar thoughts and said he didn’t mind at all when Kipf called him at work to ask if he could dye his hair.
“A bunch of his friends were doing it so he asked if he could dye his hair,” Melton said. “I said go for it. What the hell does hair color have to do with education? This is Beatrice Middle School at its finest.”
The school handbook states that hair “other than that of a natural color” is prohibited. The handbook also has requirements for tank tops, shorts and other clothing.
The students noted that Beatrice High School also has a dress code, but it's more lenient and does not ban colored hair.
Misty McGinty, whose daughter Alayna was sent home once last year for wearing jeans that had holes above the knee, said students not being able to wear certain shorts or have their hair a certain color isn’t the issue.
She said what’s upsetting some students is what they view as unequal treatment.
“Some students get away with wearing short gym shorts that when they sit down you can see everything,” Misty McGinty said. “Other kids wear a tank top and get sent home for the day. I think that they want everything to be fair. It’s not really about the color of their hair or the clothes that they’re wearing, they just feel that they’re being treated unfairly. A girl not being able to wear a tank top on a 90-degree day - why should anybody be distracted by her shoulders? The biggest thing is they need to treat everybody fairly."
Students who violated the handbook on Tuesday were sent to the Alternative Learning Center, which they said is the equivalent of in-school suspension.