A mom says her son's high school gave him an unwanted haircut because his bangs violated the school dress code.
Lane Kiesling, 16, came home in tears from his high school in Hico, Texas, last week. His mom, Amy Martin, asked him what was wrong.
"His face was completely red, he was crying," Martin told TODAY Style. "He took his hoodie off his head and he said, 'This. This is what's wrong. They cut my bangs off.' I couldn't even say anything because I was so shocked at the haircut … it was awful."
She said on Facebook that the haircut reminded her of Jim Carrey's hairstyle from the movie "Dumb and Dumber," but "worse."
Martin said the principal pulled her son out of his seventh period class and told him that he had to have his bangs cut. The principal said the length of his swooping bangs violated the school's dress code, which states that "a male's hair length shall not exceed below the eyebrows, bottom of the ear lobes or shirt collar."
The principal reportedly asked a teacher with a cosmetology license to cut Kiesling's bangs. The result was a choppy, uneven cut that Martin said was humiliating for her son. Martin said that when Kiesling returned to class, some of the other kids laughed and made fun of him.
"She (the principal) said the haircut was so bad because he wouldn't hold his head up, he was kind of looking down," Martin told TODAY. "(It's) because he was embarrassed, he was ashamed and he had tears and he didn't want anyone to see. But I don't understand how looking down explains the haircut that he got. It's so bad."
Martin said she knew her son was overdue for a haircut, and that she had been trying to get him to the barber in the weeks leading up in the incident. But the cost of a haircut was prohibitive for Martin, who is unemployed at the moment.
"I don't have a car and don't have a job, so we're working with very, very little money," she said. "We just moved, so with all the fees from transferring utilities, we did not have the money. I didn't even buy him Christmas presents this year."
“I had no idea it was such a big deal. No one contacted me.”
The principal did offer to take Kiesling for a haircut at one point, but one of Kiesling's friends heard about it and offered to take him to the barber instead, to make the situation less embarrassing for the teen.
But when they tried to get the haircut, "the one barbershop in town was closed," Martin said. "And there's only one place to go; it's a very, very small town. Everything else is 30 miles away and it would be more expensive."
The haircut was still on Martin's to-do list, but she had no idea school officials would take the matter into their own hands without consulting her first.
"I had no idea it was such a big deal. No one contacted me," she said.
After the incident, Martin said the principal did apologize to her and offered to take her son to the barber to correct the botched cut.
"I was thinking great and that would be the end of it," Martin wrote in a Facebook post. But "he came back crying again. He said the principal just told him how it was his fault and belittled him the whole time. It's a real small town, there were people they know there. He is humiliated."
She added that the haircut controversy has been the talk of their small town, adding to the stress of the situation.
"It's all anyone's talking about. We can't go anywhere. We literally can't go to the store," she said.
She said her son is "still having a hard time" dealing with what happened, and she is now working on transferring him to a different school.
In Martin's view, the principal's decision to have Kiesling's hair cut without parental permission was a crime.
"She broke the law. What she did is assault," Martin said.
Martin also contacted the local police, and the chief of police came to take a statement about the incident. However, Martin said he didn't seem to take it seriously.
TODAY has reached out to the principal and the district superintendent for comment, and we will update this post if we hear back.
The district sent the following statement to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth: "As part of our commitment to provide a safe and secure learning environment, Hico ISD has a student code of conduct and student handbook that is comprehensive. Student expectations are shared at the beginning of every school year. We also ask parents to sign off on our procedures which are based on community values. We encourage parents to be involved in decision-making processes, share how they feel about district operations and to share any concerns with their child's principal. Ultimately, our priority is to educate and support the well-being of every student in Hico ISD."