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Behind the viral picture: The story of why a Warren Twp. principal gave his student a haircut

Principal Smith, student made a deal; both won
Posted at 12:24 AM, Feb 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-23 00:24:47-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Some clippers, and a little bit of patience and an Indianapolis principal is earning praise online for taking matters into his own hands, when a student wasn't feeling confident in his appearance.

"He was refusing to take his hat off. So, I sat down with him and asked him why, what was going on. He said he just got his haircut, he didn't like the way it looked, and he thought his hairline look a little funny," Jason Smith said.

Smith is the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township. He said he thought the student looked fine but understood that the student's lack of confidence in his appearance was keeping him from going to class.

"I've been cutting hair most of my life. I played college basketball and I cut my teammates hair before games and I've been cutting my sons hair for 17 years so I had professional clippers and edgers at home, so I said, 'If I go home and get my clippers and line you up, will you go back to class,' and he said, 'Yeah, I will,'" Smith said.

After getting cleaned up by his principal the student held up his end of the bargain and went to class. While a perfect haircut may seem trivial to some. Smith said he knows that to a middle school Black boy it can mean the world.

"You know that age is a time for peer acceptance. It's huge. And So a young man, especially an African-American young man the barbershop is a big deal in the community. Looking good a representing and presenting yourself is huge for kids," Smith said.

While many online are saying this principal went above and beyond, Principal Smith would tell you he's doing exactly what he's supposed to do. Not only because he's the principal, but because he's on a mission to change the culture of his school. A place where he wants to solve problems instead of making them worse.

"We're not disciplining with a hard fist. You could call and have the parent pick up the kid up for defiance. Or you can sit and get to the root of the problem and see what can I do to help you? What do you need right now?" said Smith.

Principal Smith who is studying for his doctorate in education said he's still searching for the best ways to create the best learning environment for his students. He said this viral haircut could be a lesson for all educators on having empathy for their students.

"He really was not trying to get out of class. He just thought that he would be laughed at. So, we took the time and did what we could to help him," said Smith.

A school police officer took the picture of Mr. A Smith cutting that students hair, and with permission from smith uploaded the picture to Facebook where it has now been shared more than 24,000 times.