Junior track athlete Michael Barker disregarded the detail in the West Iron County athletic code about excessive hair and distraction, and for what he says was a good reason.
â??My mom had breast cancer three times; she just got out of it,â?? Barker said. â??She asked to see if Iâ??d do something for her.â??
So he dyed his existing mohawk a bright pink in honor of Breast Cancer awareness. Yet because it was a violation of the athletic code, he was asked numerous times by the school to cut it off, all of which he refused. This week on a bus getting ready to head to a track meet, Michael was asked to leave.
â??They told me to go back in the office. They told me the same thing, 'You gotta cut it offâ??; I told them no, they told me â??well you can't run thenâ??, then I told them I quit,â?? Barker said.
When his track buddies senior Bryson Heimerl and senior Chasz Jonet found out, they, too, walked off the bus and quit the team.
â??You don't let somebody walk off and get treated like that and not support them,â?? Jonet said.
â??It was an easy choice, a very, very easy choice to support Michael,â?? Heimerl said. â??Without Michael and Chasz on the team, itâ??s just not the same.â??
The West Iron County School District released a statement saying â??The West Iron County Schools supports the needs of students to express themselves, as long as their expression does not interfere with the education process.â?? They continued by saying â??the athletic department is going to work with the student and parents to resolve this issueâ??, that â??he was not dismissed from the teamâ??, and that they â??welcome his participation in the futureâ??.
Michaelâ??s mother Wendy Pawlicki was actually surprised the school decided to take action now.
â??Because he represents the school they say he can't have the Mohawk,â?? Pawlicki said. â??The problem is, he's had one for football, for basketball, why can't he have it for track?â??
Some of the residents in the greater Iron County area do not agree with the schoolâ??s decision.
â??In all reality, they're basically telling that student that he can't express his feelings, which is really being a supporter of his mom because of the hair color,â?? said Caspian resident, Danielle Roydes.
The school says the athletic department has long-supported Breast Cancer awareness, especially with events in October which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Michael and his supporters have been circulating a support petition which he hopes to turn into the school board. He says he does not regret his decision, and is going to try for track again next year--mowhawk included.