Maine HS won’t change policy on appearance of athletes

At Presque Isle High School (Maine) talent alone won’t earn you a spot in the sports program. You also can’t have visible tattoos, facial hair or jewelry.

Presque Isle High School in Maine.
Presque Isle High School in Maine.

One student, a senior who had spent three seasons on the ski team, challenged that rule last month to no avail. The school board ruled it would not change its policy that bars some students from participating in sports on grounds of their physical appearance.

The student chose to quit the team rather than shave his beard.

From the Bangor Daily News:

The 2014-15 Student Parent Handbook, which can be found on the district’s website, states that “in order to create a sense of team unity, camaraderie, loyalty, discipline, a team-over-self ethic, and a positive team image, school administration may set reasonable standards for the appearance of participants. This includes but is not limited to length of hair, facial hair, visible tattoos, visible body piercing, and wearing of jewelry and hats.”

The student, Chris Carroll, asked the board to change the “senseless rule,” which Carroll said was not just about his rights.

“This is not about just me; this is not a singular problem. This affects — and is felt by — the entire student body … in a time where we preach individuality, we preach tolerance, we encourage students to stand out, to make a difference, to impact society, to be positive in living, to work hard, to dare to be different,” Carroll said.

As outrageous as that might sound to some, the article notes that these types of policies are not incredibly uncommon in Maine. Presque Isle Superintendent Gehrig Johnson said the board has no plans to change the rule, saying “our athletes are volunteers, and are held to a higher standard … If you do not want to go along with it, you do not have to play,” according to the article.

At its surface, the policy appears to be a dangerous one. Ambiguous language like “reasonable standards” essentially allows those in the athletic department unlimited flexibility in what it deems appropriate.

The policy is also littered with buzz words like “camaraderie” and “team unity” that really should have nothing to do with physical appearance. The handbook claims the rule is to emphasize a “team-over-self ethic.” It’s ironic that this rule is not enforced by the team but by individuals who do not take the field or court. If it truly stood for unity within its programs, these decisions would be made by the teams and their captains.

Does your school or one that you know of enforce a similar policy? I’m curious to hear about it. Leave a comment below or send us an email at [email protected].

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