Graduation Ultimatum: Shave or Stay Home

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By Autumn Ziemba, Fox 8 News Reporter

EAST CANTON, Ohio -- A Stark County senior was handed an ultimatum on graduation day: shave or stay home.

East Canton graduate Ricky Davis, II and his family spent Friday setting up tables for his graduation party. 

It is an accomplishment 12 years in the making, and yet, something is missing.

"I just don't feel like myself.  I almost feel like an outcast in a sense," Ricky said, in response to what has become a hairy situation. 

Or perhaps the term hairless would be more appropriate.

The 18-year-old used to sport a goatee.  He says it was part of his identity. 

But on Friday, only stubble remained.

Osnaburg school district policy forbids beards as part of the dress code.

“I had it back when they had the old school, I always had a goatee, and nothing was ever said about that,” Ricky explained. “There were no problems, I always kept it neat."

Yet, minutes before Ricky walked the stage at last Sunday's graduation ceremony, he and two other students were handed a razor and shaving cream.

"There was even a teacher with a beard that handed me the razor and told me to go shave, so that's kind of hypocritical of them," Ricky said.

"I did say, well if he has to shave, what about the other kids?  You know, because you're discriminating against him," said Ricky’s mother, Linda Davis.

Linda said it wasn’t until she and Ricky pointed out other students with facial hair, that they were asked to shave as well.

Osnaburg Local Schools superintendent Melissa Marconi told Fox 8 that it is her job to uphold school policy and that Ricky was by no means singled out or discriminated against. 

She said they also asked several students to change shoes and pants to cooperate with the dress code.

Linda said the rule is trivial.

"He was told that he couldn't walk unless he shaved.  So it wasn't trivial enough for them to let it go, and that's a shame," she said.

But what's done is done.

At the end of the month, Ricky will head to the University of Northwestern Ohio to pursue a future in farming.

His mom hopes the district will look to its own future.

"The policy needs changed," Linda said.  "These kids are 18, they're productive, they have jobs outside of school and I don't know (the district’s) point and what they’re trying to prove."

Marconi said the policy has been in place for years and that it's not unique to Osnaberg schools. 

She also said all seniors were made aware of the policy at the beginning of the school year and again at graduation rehearsal.