SANTA MARIA, Calif. - It doesn't matter if you are a minor or an adult, first amendment rights are the same for everyone in a public setting. But as an attorney explained, that can change in a school setting.
Attorney Richard Brenneman says, "the purpose of school is trying to create an environment that is conducive to learning."
Brenneman says underage students at public schools can't wear anything or say anything that would cause a distraction in the classroom. In Mariah Alvarez's case, her pink hair could be banned by the Santa Maria Bonita School District if they determine it disrupts the learning environment.
"Laughing, making jokes, disrupting the classroom," says Brenneman. "If it isn't based on free speech the school can limit that conduct."
So what would qualify as being based on free speech?
"Let's say she dyed her hair yellow because she wanted to express solidarity for our troops overseas and that's her statement because it's like the yellow ribbon above the tree and she wants them to come back safely. Well that might be a free speech issue," says Brenneman.
According to Mariah's mother Dianna Alvarez, Mariah was back in school today with her pink hair. Dianna says her daughter's hair color isn't anything for the school to fuss about.
"It wasn't anything crazy," says Alvarez. "I don't think it was anything distracting. It was under her hair. It wasn't anything someone would be staring at in class."
Alvarez says if it isn't distracting, there should be no problem.
"A public school should let them be who they are," says Alvarez.
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