Personal style is designed to make a statement. Still, Hayleigh Black never expected that hers would land her in the principal's office.
No sooner had she arrived for her first day back at school this year than the 16-year-old was told to go home. According to the Muscle Shoals school system in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, her red hair was too disruptive to remain in the building.
Black has dyed her hair a variant of vibrant red for almost three years, as smiling school photos show. Her mother, Kim Boyd, told ABC News that school administrators have never taken issue with it before.
But last week, Black was told that her hair was "distracting" fellow classmates. Citing the student handbook, which rules against "distracting" or "disruptive" hair styles, the principal insisted she leave the building.
"This is a rule that we've known about. We've always abided by it," said Boyd. "I told the principal, I said, 'You were her assistant principal last year. How come you never sent her home last year?' It's the same color as always."
While she said the principal did not offer her an explanation, Muscle Shoals superintendent Brian Lindsey told ABC News that his decision is in accordance with policy.
"The principal is just following the policy. Several girls were sent home for hair color," Lindsey said. "Most everyone complied and came back and are back in class."
"The policy was put in place years ago," he added, and it "very rarely ever comes up as an issue."
Lindsey said the rule aims to "provide a safe environment conducive to learning."
Black, who was determined not to miss any more class time, stripped her hair hours after the incident. Her mother, however, reported that the disciplinary action has taken its toll.
"She's been a little down," Boyd said. "She misses her hair color. I'm upset for her. I just felt very angered that my child -- a good student, no problems ever -- is having her feet knocked out from under her on the first day of school."
Boyd hoped the school would reverse its decision and allow Black to return to her preferred tint.
"She's a kid," said Boyd. "I dyed my hair when I was her age. I was excited it was that, [that] it wasn't a tattoo that she wanted or piercings, or something. There are so many girls that do it and there could be worse things. As long as she's a good student, hair is the least of my worries."