Vail Daily letter: A warning call
April 1, 2014
School reform is always a hot topic in politics because it touches every parent, grandparent, and, well, everyone. We try to make our schools better through higher test scores, more qualified teachers, increased funding for technology, and less expensive textbooks. We also try to regulate student behavior through uniforms, non-bullying policies, and other school programs and strategies. The nation convulses when school tragedies occur and it wishes to make campuses safe and kind environments for our children to grow.
So when a student commits an act of compassion, it should be rewarded. Not at Caprock Academy in Grand Junction. Kamryn Renfro, a student who shaved her head to support her friend during a cancer battle, was removed from classes because of her violation of the dress code.
When did rules become more important than people? For a society with bullying and shootings, it is heartening to witness a young woman show empathy and courage for a classmate; it is shameful to see that the school responds with bullying. It is unforgivable that institutions that are supposed to make our future brighter should show children that kindness ought to be punished.
Ms. Renfro should have been in the newspapers not to show the world how poor our schools are, but to show us that kindness is still alive and well. However, her actions have been tainted by the school trying to convince students that they should follow the rules of society regardless of the good they could do by breaking them.
The teachers at the school should have been shouting examples from history at the administration — examples of the innumerable people who stood against a cause risking far more than violating a school dress code: the revolutionaries in France in 1789 and during World War II, Galileo and his astrologic model, Gandhi reconciling conflicting societies, Joan of Arc defending her country regardless of the social constraints on women. These and many more people have a wonderful legacy in Ms. Renfro. She was brave enough not only to shave her head, but also to risk the punishments because it was the right thing to do.
As someone who desires a more gracious world, I applaud Ms. Renfro and condemn the school board. Such a small act of caring scared the school board, demonstrating how little this society understands about kindness. We owe it not only to our nation's youth today to encourage kindness and empathy, but we also must inspire these characteristics for the future. We will have a much better future if young women like Ms. Renfro could express their benevolence and love fully and without fear of reprimand.
Let us take this story as a warning that if we do not embolden the thoughtful, we will be left with fearful and mean-spirited people shaping and leading our nation. This story is a warning call; let us heed it.