HURRICANE — A Hurricane teenager has been allowed back at school after being threatened with suspension if she didn't dye her hair to what school officials agreed upon as a "natural" shade.
Rylee MacKay, 15, was asked on Wednesday to leave class at Hurricane Middle School and not return until her hair color fit "on the spectrum of natural color," according to her mother, Amy MacKay.
MacKay said she had taken a copy of the dress code to the hairdresser when Rylee had dyed her hair, and the three had come up with a shade they felt fit the policy. It was a mixture of natural brown and red, she said, although school officials claimed they sent Rylee home for having "pink and purple" in her hair. Rylee has been dying her hair the same shade since September, according to her mother.
The ninth grader was told she had until Monday to dye her hair again, but her mother asked the school to "give it a few days" so the fresh hair dye could fade. On Monday, Rylee returned to school after making no changes to her hair.
"All she did was wash her hair every day, like she always would," Amy MacKay said.
MacKay said despite attempting to contact Hoyt, she has not heard from school or district officials on the matter. Rylee went to school and waited in the office through two classes, she said, before administrators decided she could return to class.
Monday morning, Hurricane Middle School principal Dr. Ron Hoyt told ksl.com Rylee had "complied" and was back in class. When asked for details, he said "apparently, she's washed it several times and it's toned down."
MacKay said she hopes the Washington County School District will use the opportunity to examine its dress code, which states that "hair color should be within the spectrum of color that hair grows naturally."
"There is absolutely ambiguity there that needs to be addressed," she said. "And they didn't tell her not to dye it again what's going to happen six weeks from now? We don't know what's going to happen moving forward."
The Washington County School District did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the matter.
Many who read the story expressed disbelief at the color that had sparked the threat of suspension. Some, including James O'Bryan, wrote to the school to ask the administration to reconsider.
"Considering the recent, and ongoing news that Utah's schools are slipping in terms of academic performance it occurs to me that punishing a student for something as inane as her hair color may be a contributing factor to our state's unfortunate academic position," O'Bryan wrote, according to an email also sent to ksl.com. "Not only are you and your staff focusing on a silly issue (hair color), but you are also essentially telling this girl she is not to express herself in normal, healthy ways."
After looking through hundreds of comments on ksl.com, the ksl.com Facebook page and other local and national media sites, MacKay said it would be "really disappointing" if the dress code in the district were not looked at.
"I would say that they're not listening to the public, and to the parents," she said. "You can read the reaction all over the place now. I would say 98 percent of the people thought it was outrageous that she got kicked out of school. These people are supposed to represent us and now they're not listening to us."