PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — School officials have decided against reviewing policies around the personal appearance of athletes after a varsity skier quit the team this year, rather than shave his beard.
Chris Carroll, a senior who had been on the ski team for three seasons, told the school board March 11 that he was upset he could not be on the team this year unless he shaved.
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.”
Carroll said he asked school administrators this past winter to waive enforcement of the rule until he could present his case, but his appeal was denied.
“Unfortunately, I was forced to side with my individuality over a fourth full year of being a top varsity skier,” he told school board members when he appeared before them.
He 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.
The board took no action at the meeting and Presque Isle Superintendent Gehrig Johnson said this week that future action is unlikely.
“We have no plans to change the policy,” Johnson said. “This is the way athletes represent our school. Our athletes are volunteers, and are held to a higher standard. They are role models. They are expected to adhere to the policy, which may be more stringent than other schools, I admit, but they represent our district. They wear sports coats and ties to games, for example. But if you do not want to go along with it, you do not have to play.”
Policies dictating the personal appearance of athletes are not uncommon in Maine schools and are largely left to the discretion of local districts, according to state education officials.
“We have a sample policy that boards can use,” Charlotte Bates, director of policy and resource services for the Maine School Management Association, said. “Taking part in athletics is a privilege and not a right, so there are a lot of schools that have athletic codes and rules that they put out there that athletes have to meet. We leave that up to the local schools.”
Dick Durost, executive director of the Maine Principals Association, said several schools, particularly private and religion-based ones have adopted more stringent athletic policies, but team members adhere to them because the school has decided “this is who we are and this is who we want our student athletes to represent us to be.”
Durost said he could see facial hair policies being different in college, “but it is pretty much expected now that [high school] students are going to be clean-shaven and have good grooming.”
Presque Isle Star-Herald writer Scott Mitchell Johnson contributed to this report.