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Principal Jason Smith used his haircutting skills to help a young student who was embarrassed to take off his hat in class.

By Jason Duaine Hahn
March 01, 2021
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Principal haircut
Credit: Courtesy Jason Smith

When Principal Jason Smith was recently approached by one of his 8th-grade students who refused to take off his hat in class, he had a creative solution.

The student, Anthony Moore, explained to Smith that he didn't like his recent haircut and hoped to keep his hat on, despite the school's policy of prohibiting students from wearing them.

Though he thought Moore's haircut was acceptable, Smith understood the student's concerns.

"The barbershop and hair cuts as Black males is very important in the community and looking your best and being sharp — it's just a cultural aspect," Smith, of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Indianapolis told CNN. "Just from my being a Black male myself and coming through that culture and you know, I really think girls matter at that age, which [means] appearance then could matter."

"He was scared he was going to be laughed at and we were pretty sure no one would notice, but he was looking through his lens," he added.

Instead of disciplining Moore, Smith told him he could grab a pair of clippers and fix what he felt was wrong with the haircut. He did have years of experience, after all.

"I told him, 'Look, I've been cutting hair since I was your age,' and I showed him pictures of my son's haircuts that I did and some of me cutting hair in college," Smith told CNN. "And I said, 'If I run home and get my clippers and fix your line, will you go back to class?'"

Moore was reluctant at first, but eventually agreed to have Smith cut his hair once his parents agreed, the Indianapolis Star reported.

"I came back and lined him up, and he went on to class," Smith told the newspaper. "[Cutting hair] ended up being a useful skill."

A picture of Smith giving Moore a trim went viral on social media this week, with many praising Smith for mitigating the situation instead of sending his student home or giving him an in-school suspension, which normally would have been the case per school policy.

"This may seem trivial, but shout out to the principal for understanding the significance of appearance and its impact on self-esteem at this age," one Twitter user said. "They should add 'fresh lineup' to Maslow's hierarchy of needs as a sub-point in esteem for black male students."

"'A great leader,'" added another user. "Photo shows principal fixing haircut of student who refused to go to class on first day of school. Love this story!! Taking the time to find out the real cause of the issue… priceless."

Smith told CNN he continued to check up on Moore following the haircut, and was happy to find out he kept his hat off the rest of the day.

"All behavior is communication and when a student is struggling, we need to ask ourselves what happened to this child instead of what's wrong with the child," Smith said. "What need is the child trying to get met and really, the future of urban education rests on that question."

This story originally appeared on people.com

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