An administrator at Notre Dame High School was disciplined more than a month ago for reportedly shaving the head of a student who showed up to school one day sporting a Mowhawk-style haircut.
Vice Principal and Athletic Director Mike Rapone reportedly shaved the head of Lucus Hull in front of other students during homeroom period while in the cafeteria, according to his mother, Denise Hull.
She describes her son as "humiliated" by Rapone's actions and claims that Rapone violated the school's code of conduct by touching her son without permission.
The reprimand Rapone received, confirmed by letters to Hull by the school and the superintendent of the diocese's schools, doesn't go far enough, according to Hull. She wants Rapone terminated.
"Quite frankly, if what is on the code of conduct is correct, then Mr. Rapone has violated it and should be removed from his position with the school," Hull said in an e-mail to The Batavian.
The incident occurred in Sept. 23. Charles Hull wrote a lengthy letter to Principal Joseph Scanlan on Oct. 2 that made several points, including (but not limited to):
That while at the Camp Hough Freshman Retreat, Sept. 3-4, Lucas asked Rapone for permission to have a "buzzcut Mohawk style," and Rapone, Hull said, told Lucas he could try it for a day.
Lucas, Hull said, reviewed the school uniform policy and assured his parents the haircut was permitted. "Nothing was or is noted in the policy which strictly prohibits any type of Mohawk hairstyle," Hull wrote.
Lucus was given the option Sept. 23 to go home for a haircut (which is 12 miles away) or Rapone would cut his hair.
About 20 minutes later, Rapone returned to the homeroom, which was held in the cafeteria, and shaved the youth's hair in front of classmates.
Among the Hulls' complaints -- that the parents were not contacted about the issue before the Mohawk was shaved off.
The Hulls do not feel the public apology by Rapone was sufficient to assuage Lucas or his sister. They called it "damage control" and "less than sincere."
Denise Hull contacted The Batavian, she said, because she felt Notre Dame had failed to address the situation adequately.
She said she believes the board of directors, which she characterizes as made up primarily of sports boosters and former athletes, are unduly protecting a popular athletic director and successful basketball coach.
Her communications included copies of letters from the school and diocese and a copy of the student handbook.
The handbook, dated July 2014, clearly states "Outlandish hairstyles (e.g. Mohawks, wild colors, etc.)" are prohibited.
The letters clearly state that Rapone was reprimanded, that he and Scanlan must attend sensitivity training, and that the policy for dealing with such situations would be revised.
The letter from Charles Hull to Scanlan indicates that Rapone may have misunderstood the question from Lucas about a "buzzcut Mohawk."
"Mr. Rapone misunderstanding a question does not give him the right to humiliate Lucas," Charles Hull wrote.
Of course, a "buzzcut" and a "Mohawk" are two different styles of haircuts. One involves completely shaving the head, the other leaves a streak of hair down the middle of the scalp.
Denise Hull also said she believes the school is applying a double standard because there are students who have come to school with what might be considered "outlandish" hairstyles.
We shared one specific complaint with Scanlan (we're avoiding being specific so as not to publicly drag another student into the issue) and Scanlan said, "that's a completely separate issue," but said he couldn't elaborate.
The Hulls also contacted Child Protective Services, which told them, Denise Hull said, this wasn't a CPS issue, and Batavia PD, which investigated and found insufficient evidence to sustain a charge of harassment.
Scanlan said he couldn't comment on a personnel matter. He e-mailed The Batavian the following statement authorized by the school's board of directors:
The incident in question occurred in September, and was promptly and appropriately addressed by the Notre Dame High School Board of Trustees and the school administration.
A student came to school with a mohawk haircut that violated the School’s dress code policy. After the student declined the opportunity to leave school to get his hair cut, the assistant principal cut the student’s hair in the student’s homeroom. The assistant principal has since apologized to the student, his parents, and the school community for his error in judgment in cutting the student's hair in the student’s homeroom before discussing the violation with the student’s parents.
Additionally, the School’s Board of Trustees recently amended to the School's student dress code policy to provide that parents will be consulted prior to any action if a similar situation arises in the future.
This action by the Board, coupled with the previous actions by the School's administration, has fully and thoroughly addressed this situation, and the School will have no further comment on this private matter.