Many kids like to gussy up their looks with something creative (read: unusual) to help them feel special and be set apart from the crowd. Let’s face it, this is the only age they can get away with something like this. My own son is famous for this – finding unusual hats or resurrecting Halloween costumes to wear to school, and even creating masterpieces to alter his look dramatically. Sadly (and admittedly, not so sadly), he’s growing out of this. It was sometimes embarrassing to walk outside of the safety of our non-judgmental house with a boy who had fashioned a whole ninja costume out of paper and duct tape, though I appreciated his need to express himself.
Such creativity isn’t sparse in those younger grades. It’s not uncommon to see a girl coming to school with a little extra sparkle on her cheeks, a boy in a super hero cape, play dresses brought out as school clothes, or some other kind of expressive decorative embellishment. For 7 year old Ukailya Lofton, her creativity involved candy in a very unique way. She asked her mom to help her fasten Jolly Ranchers candies to the end of her braids after seeing the style in a magazine. And like most moms of 7 year olds, mom Lucinda Williams complied. And off to school Ukailya went. It goes without saying she created quite the stir. Even her teacher got out her camera, saying “My husband is not going to believe this.”
Little did Ukaila or Lucinda know that the Jolly Rancher hairdo would end up on Facebook where it would be ridiculed by all the teacher’s friends.
“I laughed so hard my contact popped out”
“yeah this is foolishness”
“If you are going to make your child look ridiculous the least you could do is make them matching.”
The Facebook posting was noticed by one of the parents who is Facebook friends with the teacher. She promptly took screenshots of the Facebook posting and comments and sent them to the mom, who then furiously notified the school. The teacher immediately removed the photos and apologized. But it wasn’t enough. Lucinda felt that an apology was owed to 7 year old Ukailya directly.
“What bothers me is that she still hasn’t apologized to my baby,” Lucinda told the Chicago Tribune. “No child should have to go to school to be bullied by their teacher. She wasn’t even suspended, and an apology is not enough.”
Ukailya said, “My mama told me she put it on Facebook and then I felt sad.”
First of all, kids do strange things, and we adults should encourage their creativity as long as possible. So the fact that Lucinda let her child come to school with candy in her hair does not make her a bad person. Second, the photo should never have made it to Facebook as an avenue for teasing of a child that was not the teacher’s own. I’m sure it started out innocent enough, and meant in good humor. I mean, candy as barrettes is definitely a sight to be shared. But adults making fun of a little girl for her hair? That’s just mean spirited. And teachers especially need to be careful about what they post online about the children in their classroom, judging by all the many cases recently about teachers (here and here). So I agree, the Facebook posting was in poor taste and judgment. But here’s where I’ve parted ways with the semantics of this case.
Why was Ukailya even made aware that her photo was on Facebook at all?
She’d have been just fine never even knowing that the photo was online, or that people were making fun of her. And no matter what that teacher says to her in the form of an apology, this little girl will undoubtedly be left feeling totally self conscious about exerting creativity. I agree that the teacher started it. But I believe the mom contributed to it. And now Ukailya’s mom is getting a lawyer to prepare a lawsuit against the school and teacher for the Facebook posting, bringing further attention to a case of creativity being snuffed out.
Think this child will ever try anything original again? Has your own child ever done something over the top creative that could be seen as unusual?