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November 25, 2014 - 5:27pm

Parents of Notre Dame student air complaints about son getting Mohawk shaved off at school

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, schools, education, Notre Dame.

An administrator at Notre Dame High School was disciplined more than a month ago for reportedly shaving the head of a student who showed up to school one day sporting a Mowhawk-style haircut.

Vice Principal and Athletic Director Mike Rapone reportedly shaved the head of Lucus Hull in front of other students during homeroom period while in the cafeteria, according to his mother, Denise Hull.

She describes her son as "humiliated" by Rapone's actions and claims that Rapone violated the school's code of conduct by touching her son without permission.

The reprimand Rapone received, confirmed by letters to Hull by the school and the superintendent of the diocese's schools, doesn't go far enough, according to Hull. She wants Rapone terminated.

"Quite frankly, if what is on the code of conduct is correct, then Mr. Rapone has violated it and should be removed from his position with the school," Hull said in an e-mail to The Batavian.

The incident occurred in Sept. 23. Charles Hull wrote a lengthy letter to Principal Joseph Scanlan on Oct. 2 that made several points, including (but not limited to):

  • That while at the Camp Hough Freshman Retreat, Sept. 3-4, Lucas asked Rapone for permission to have a "buzzcut Mohawk style," and Rapone, Hull said, told Lucas he could try it for a day.
  • Lucas, Hull said, reviewed the school uniform policy and assured his parents the haircut was permitted. "Nothing was or is noted in the policy which strictly prohibits any type of Mohawk hairstyle," Hull wrote.
  • Lucus was given the option Sept. 23 to go home for a haircut (which is 12 miles away) or Rapone would cut his hair.
  • About 20 minutes later, Rapone returned to the homeroom, which was held in the cafeteria, and shaved the youth's hair in front of classmates.
  • Among the Hulls' complaints -- that the parents were not contacted about the issue before the Mohawk was shaved off.
  • The Hulls do not feel the public apology by Rapone was sufficient to assuage Lucas or his sister. They called it "damage control" and "less than sincere."

Denise Hull contacted The Batavian, she said, because she felt Notre Dame had failed to address the situation adequately. 

She said she believes the board of directors, which she characterizes as made up primarily of sports boosters and former athletes, are unduly protecting a popular athletic director and successful basketball coach.

Her communications included copies of letters from the school and diocese and a copy of the student handbook.

The handbook, dated July 2014, clearly states "Outlandish hairstyles (e.g. Mohawks, wild colors, etc.)" are prohibited.

The letters clearly state that Rapone was reprimanded, that he and Scanlan must attend sensitivity training, and that the policy for dealing with such situations would be revised.

The letter from Charles Hull to Scanlan indicates that Rapone may have misunderstood the question from Lucas about a "buzzcut Mohawk."

"Mr. Rapone misunderstanding a question does not give him the right to humiliate Lucas," Charles Hull wrote.

Of course, a "buzzcut" and a "Mohawk" are two different styles of haircuts. One involves completely shaving the head, the other leaves a streak of hair down the middle of the scalp.

Denise Hull also said she believes the school is applying a double standard because there are students who have come to school with what might be considered "outlandish" hairstyles.  

We shared one specific complaint with Scanlan (we're avoiding being specific so as not to publicly drag another student into the issue) and Scanlan said, "that's a completely separate issue," but said he couldn't elaborate.

The Hulls also contacted Child Protective Services, which told them, Denise Hull said, this wasn't a CPS issue, and Batavia PD, which investigated and found insufficient evidence to sustain a charge of harassment.

Scanlan said he couldn't comment on a personnel matter. He e-mailed The Batavian the following statement authorized by the school's board of directors:

The incident in question occurred in September, and was promptly and appropriately addressed by the Notre Dame High School Board of Trustees and the school administration.

A student came to school with a mohawk haircut that violated the School’s dress code policy. After the student declined the opportunity to leave school to get his hair cut, the assistant principal cut the student’s hair in the student’s homeroom. The assistant principal has since apologized to the student, his parents, and the school community for his error in judgment in cutting the student's hair in the student’s homeroom before discussing the violation with the student’s parents.

Additionally, the School’s Board of Trustees recently amended to the School's student dress code policy to provide that parents will be consulted prior to any action if a similar situation arises in the future.

This action by the Board, coupled with the previous actions by the School's administration, has fully and thoroughly addressed this situation, and the School will have no further comment on this private matter.

Peter O'Brien
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Oh your precious snowflake, how terrible that he was humiliated.

He should have felt humiliated wearing the terrible hairstyle to begin with.

Feel lucky that this wasn't the old ways of catholic school.

Rich Richmond
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The child went there looking for attention and a reaction.

The parents may or not have known about the Mowhawk. If they knew and sent him to school; shame on them.

Regardless; the child should have been sent home and the parents should have corrected the rule violation......or not.

Notre Dame is a private school and set the rules. If the parents approve of the Mowhawk; send him to a school that allows it.

Annette Guilds
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Notre Dame is a private school. If you do not like its policies, send your child to a public school. Charles Hull seems to be misinformed by his son who assured him the Mohawk did not violate school policy. According to the student handbook provided by Denise Hull, mohawks are probibited! Let me repeat..send your children to a public school if you don't like the private school rules or how they deal with situations. Mr. Rapone is a dedicated vice principal, coach, and athletic director who does not deserve to have his name and reputation tarnished in public over such a matter. He holds three positions at ND and probably spends 12+ hours a day there for very little pay. This shows dedication and a great love for the students and school. A lapse in judgement for which he apologized does not deserve this public humiliation. This happened in September yet you are just making it public now? I hardly think your son was too traumitized or you would have pulled him from Notre Dame immediately and sent him to a public school!

david spaulding
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public school, private school, doesn't really matter. you can't go around putting your hands on somebody else, especially a minor, and then cutting their hair off.
somebody did that to my child, I'd be plenty mad.

Scott Ogle
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Deleted by user on account of poor word choice.

Mike Weaver
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I find it odd that public humiliation of the school administrator is being strongly chided but public humiliation of a child is being justified.

Fred GUNDELL
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Monday, while on public Transportation a young lady crossed in front of the bus. She was on her way to school. She was not dressed for school, maybe a sex party or something. Cut off shorts(really cutoff), halter top with low cleavage. Black mascara eyes(Looked like a raccoon )Had my sister ever came to breakfast before school like that, my parent would have sent her back to her room to get dressed.(at least) This haircut issues seems so trivial, I do not understand why the parents are more interested in what the school did, and not interested in what their child did. If folks do not respect themselves, they will never respect others.

John Roach
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The kid got his 15 minutes of fame. Just saw him on Channel 2.

Mark Potwora
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Just more small town gossip..I would think the Batavian has better things to report on..

Mark Fanara
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...

Scott Ogle
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"Just more small town gossip. . ."

It's my understanding it's the parents who're pushing the story, Mark. But I agree with you there are better more important, stories out there.

Mark Fanara
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There are better, more import stories out there? This kind of abuse could potentially create another Columbine. In all likelihood, if this is the first time Mr. Rapone has been publicly called out, it's not the first time he's demonstrated these behaviors. And to follow that up, no outrageous hair styles and faces must be clean shaven? I'm pretty sure Jesus had long hair and a beard. What would Jesus do? Forcibly shave this student's head in front of others? Is this a catholic school or a military school? These rules seem to be conformist not catholic. I'm not a religious person, but where is the kindness, patients and compassion that I would like to associate with Christianity? I have two young boys that will attend local schools, so how students are treated by people with positions of authority in a school is important to me. And furthermore, Peter O'Brien, calling this student "precious snowflake" after he has made it clear that he found it humiliating to be publicly shamed, is a shame in itself.

Scott Ogle
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"I'm sorry Scott, I don't believe that I said there are better, more important stories out there."

Mr Fanara, I was addressing (and quoting) Mr Potwara. With two Marks in the mix, I should have been more specific.

"Is this a catholic school or a military school?"

From the above article, it's my understanding that Notre Dame High School is indeed a private Catholic institution. I'll leave the theological extrapolations to others. I'm happily agnostic.

Mark Fanara
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Ok. I do apologize about that Scott. I will edit my comment accordingly.

Scott Ogle
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No need for an apology or edit. And Happy Thanksgiving!

mathew pribek
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Submission to authority is a tenet of Christianity, I believe. And if this young man's parents reject the authority of the school is it any wonder that their child does also?

Mark Fanara
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What gives Mr. Rapone the authority to cut a child's hair without the parent's permission? The parents aren't disputing the rule, but rather the way it was enforced. It wasn't right. It's not right to humiliate a child that way. The authority of the State and Federal government and child's parents in this case, trump the authority of this school, in this way the school doesn't respect authority because private, catholic or public, you're not supposed to do this. It's abuse.

alvin tufts
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What would an adult be charged with if they walked up to a random stranger and shaved their head without permission?

Mark Fanara
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That's a good question

Mark Fanara
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Another question is, where did these clippers come from? Are they dog clippers? Have they been used to trim someone's jungle down under? How many people have they been used on? Hair dressers and barbers need a license and learn how to prevent cross contamination. Is Mr. Rapone a licensed hair dresser or barber? Also is it a health code violation to cut hair in a cafeteria?

alvin tufts
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At least the parents are seeking a legal remedy. I wouldn't be able to do the same if it was my kid.

Mark Fanara
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I just asked a retired Batavia PD officer what the charges could be if someone shaved someone else's head without permission and here's the response that I got: Very difficult to answer. A lot of variables. You must be referring to the ND incident. Harassment 2nd Degree or Endangering The Welfare of a Child comes to mind. Sounds like the police considered those charges and probably consulted with the DA. I'm guessing they concluded the matter was best to be handled internally by disciplinary action from the school.

Bob Price
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Oh boohoo-what a crybaby. You knew the rules of the school,if you can't follow them,go to public school where you can do as you please(or so it seems). What Mr. Rapone should've done was immediately call his parents and let them know the rule violation,and sent him home until his hair was properly groomed. It does seem strange that he did have a set of clippers handy,though.

Howard B. Owens
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You know, there really shouldn't be any name calling in this thread. Please don't do that. You can get your point across without belittling people. I should have stopped it earlier. Let's end it now.

alvin tufts
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He put the kid at risk for staph, MRSA, etc.

Mark Fanara
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This kid is a freshmen right? He's probably not even old enough to drive and there are grown adults on here calling this kid a cry baby and precious snowflake under this story's facebook post. Again, Bullying! Grow up folks.. While this may not have bothered some kids, it obviously bothered this one. Think beyond yourselves. Everyone doesn't have thick skin, or pretend to anyway.

alvin tufts
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What mental frame of mind would someone have to be in to do this? Try and picture yourself grabbing some kid while physically and mentally over powering him and making him submit. He must have been terrified. It's a perverted and demented abuse of authority.

Bob Price
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I thought he was a senior. Everybody puts themselves at risk for diseases and sickness whenever they are in public-ever see people not wash their hands after using restroom,coughing,etc???? I'm so sick of this term "bullying" being thrown around-when I was in school, you were told to grow up and get over it. No wonder this society is going in the toilet-can't say this,can't do that....... what do you think would've happened years ago when your parents were in school and they did something like this? I bet that their parents would'nt act like the parents do nowadays....

Mark Fanara
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Bob, maybe he's a senior. I don't know. Nevertheless it's not right to call this kid names...Kids used to get hit across their knuckles with rulers in catholic schools. It became unacceptable. People change. Views on what's acceptable change. Times change. Bob, grow up and get over it. Stop living in the past, don't drown in the wake of progress.

Scott Ogle
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You've persuaded me on the name calling issue, Mr Fanara. You're right, and I was wrong to use the term I did in context. (Though in my defense, it wasn't the kid who was ever the object of my scorn, and I'm afraid it's that which wasn't at all clear.)

Neil Gagne
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Any teacher or school official who would assault a student in this manner has absolutely no business in the teaching profession. This man should be removed from his position immediately.

Ron C Welker
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Really!

Back in the 60s BHS had a coach (Dan VanDetta) that would use a wooden paddle to beat students that stepped out of line bare butt in front of the class. The paddle had holes drilled in it to add to the pain and humiliation . I witnessed a school football player on his birthday get a taste of the paddle 17 times that brought him to tears in front of the whole class.
Not one facility member or parent objected to this barbaric practice that I know of. I myself had a taste of the paddle for skipping a shower after square dancing for gym class.

Frank Bartholomew
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It will be interesting to see if the school administration continues to stand by their guy when the court summons show up for a civil litigation trial. The parents are probably crying too, all the way to an attorneys office. When I think of catholic schools, I remember pointers across the back of the legs, rulers across the fingers, high school ring on the top of the head, and my all time favorite, standing at the front of the class with arms extended above the waist while holding a dictionary in each hand, if you let your arms drop, you got the pointer. Almost like being enrolled in child abuse 101.
chuck ogeen
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Some things not being said. The mother went to this school and knew the rules. Why did she send him that day? The kid was given options. Chose the haircut. He thought it would be fun an to get attention. This was done infront of 16 kids all seniors. The clippers were not at the school so if he was worried he had time to call his parents. He chose not to do so. This was investigate by numerous groups no charges. She tried to sue. Nothing. She tried to get the tuition lowered on her kids nothing. The Vp said he was sorry to the entire school. Now she is parading these 2 kids around the media looking for bleeding hearts. I have known this vp for over 45 years he regrets this incident and would never hurt a kid. He and his family have given their lives for this school. And finally if this is such a big deal and the kids are so traumatized why are both of these kids still at Nd?

Howard B. Owens
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Thanks for the comment, Chuck.

Scott Ogle
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Yes, what Chuck said.

Annette Guilds
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My thoughts exactly Chuck.

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