SWYGERT, Chief Judge.
Defendant Eugene Cloncs, principal, and the other named defendants, all officials of the Metropolitan School District of Washington Township, Marion County, Indiana, refused to readmit plaintiff, Tyler Crews, to North Central High School for the 1969-1970 term on the sole ground that the length of his hair failed to conform to unpublished school rules and regulations. Plaintiff brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1343, 2201 seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction requiring defendants to permit him to attend regular classes at North Central. After a trial before the court, the district judge denied relief holding that defendants had presented facts sufficient to satisfy the "substantial burden of justification" required for interference with plaintiff's rights.
Tyler Crews is a seventeen-year-old high school student. In keeping with the prevailing style among many of his generation, he chooses to wear his hair longer than is generally true of his elders. His reasons for this decision were stated in the district court as follows:
Though a similar style prevailed among their own grandfathers, North Central school officials look upon Crews' long hair with great distaste and perceive it as a genuine threat to their own authority and to quality education.
Crews' difficulties with school authorities began in September 1967. At that time, although North Central had published no written rules governing the length of high school student's hair,
At the end of the 1967-68 school year Cloncs informed Crews that he would not be readmitted to North Central in the fall unless he agreed to periodic haircuts. Rather than comply with this directive, plaintiff enrolled in night classes at the Broad Ripple High School during the 1968-69 school term.
Late in the spring of 1969 Crews again requested admission to North Central. At the regular school board meeting of the Metropolitan School District on June 16, 1969 a hearing was held concerning the Crews case. Plaintiff did not attend, but was represented at the meeting by his father, a lawyer, and a psychiatrist with whom plaintiff had been consulting. An additional meeting of the board was held on June 19 at which time the board adopted the following resolution:
Plaintiff's action in the district court was commenced shortly thereafter.
Plaintiff raises several important constitutional issues including: (1) whether our recent decision in Soglin v. Kauffman, 418 F.2d 163 (7 Cir. 1969), permits the imposition of serious sanctions on long-haired students without the promulgation of written rules; (2) whether such rules are subject to the same vagueness and overbreadth standards applied in Soglin v. Kauffman;
It is now clearly established that the state does not possess an absolute right arbitrarily to refuse opportunities such as education in public schools or employment in public service. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503, 89 S.Ct. 733, 21 L.Ed.2d 731 (1969); Pickering v. Board of Education, 391 U.S. 563, 88 S.Ct. 1731, 20 L.Ed.2d 811 (1968); Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 385 U.S. 589, 87 S.Ct. 675, 17 L.Ed.2d 629 (1967). "[S]tate-operated schools may not be enclaves of totalitarianism. * * * [Students] are possessed of fundamental rights which the State must respect, just as they themselves must respect their obligations to the State." Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, supra 393 U.S. at 511, 89 S.Ct. at 739. In order to protect these rights from arbitrary infringement, courts must judge the constitutionality of disciplinary action which denies a student the opportunity to attend classes or to obtain equal opportunity to education. In making this judgment we must weigh and consider competing individual rights and the state's claim to an orderly and efficient educational system. Richards v. Thurston, 304 F.Supp. 449, 452 (D.Mass.), aff'd, 424 F.2d 1281 (1st Cir. 1970).
In Breen we held that plaintiff's right was of a high order of importance. Thus we stated: "The right to wear one's hair at any length or in any desired manner is an ingredient of personal freedom protected by the United States Constitution." Breen v. Kahl, supra, 419 F.2d at 1036.
More recently the Supreme Court has recognized that the special right of an individual to control his physical person weighs heavily against arbitrary state intrusions. Breithaupt v. Abram, 352 U.S. 432, 439, 77 S.Ct. 408, 1 L.Ed.2d 448 (1957); Rochin v. California, 342 U.S. 165, 172, 72 S.Ct. 205, 96 L.Ed. 183 (1952). Indeed, unless the fundamental nature of the liberty claimed by plaintiff is recognized, the freedom guaranteed by the Bill of Rights could be significantly diluted through subtle forms of state repression and tyranny.
In Breen we also recognized that "it would be impossible to comply with the long hair regulation during school hours and follow the wishes of the students and their parents as to hair length outside the school." Breen v. Kahl, supra, 419 F.2d at 1037-1038. Therefore, since the impact of hair regulations extends beyond the schoolhouse gate, the degree of state infringement on personal rights is significantly greater than in many other areas of school discipline. See Richards v. Thurston, supra 424 F.2d at 1286. As a result we held that "[t]o limit or curtail [plaintiff's right to wear his hair at any length or in any desired manner], * * * the state has a `substantial burden of justification.' Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 at 505, 85 S.Ct. 1678, 14 L.Ed.2d 510 (J. White concurring). See McLaughlin v. Florida, 379 U.S. 184, 196, 85 S.Ct. 283, 13 L.Ed.2d 222 (1964)." Breen v. Kahl, supra 419 F.2d at 1036.
In Breen the school board offered two justifications to sustain its regulation:
Relying on the factual findings of the district court we held that the record failed to support either of these claims. We noted, however, that "[t]he record contains no suggestion that the length of the hair constituted a health problem or a physical obstruction or danger to any person [nor] was any disruption or disturbance caused by the length of his hair," and expressly reserved the question of "whether a valid showing of any single or combination of justifications, which the School Board did or did not raise, would be sufficient to satisfy the state's substantial burden." Breen v. Kahl, supra 419 F.2d at 1037. It is upon this basis that the defendants argue the case at bar is distinguishable from Breen.
Although the district court rendered its decision prior to Breen, the court, nevertheless, correctly required the defendants to satisfy a "substantial burden of justification" for the exclusion of plaintiff from North Central. The court stated its holding in a conclusionary fashion and did not rely upon particular evidence in the record. However, in accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 52, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the justifications advanced by defendants.
Defendants maintain that they have satisfied their burden under either of two theories. The first is that plaintiff's long hair caused actual disruption in the operation of North Central. The Supreme Court in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, supra 393 U.S. at 514, 89 S.Ct. at 740, held that a school rule or disciplinary action impinging on fundamental rights is valid only if the record contains evidence "which might reasonably have led school authorities to forecast substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities." We find insufficient evidence in the record to satisfy that test.
Evidence of disruption or interference in school activities presented in the district court consisted of the following testimony: (1) biology teacher Arlen Lickliter testified that some members of the zoology class "checked everyday through the prep room, with windows between, just to see if Tyler happened to be there that day;" (2) Lickliter also testified that Crews' presence caused a "strain" in Lickliter's relations with his students and that plaintiff experienced difficulty in obtaining a microscope partner because of the length of his hair; and (3) Dr. H. D. Evans, assistant superintendent for general administration, stated, without reference to particular facts, that long hair worn by a male student is inherently distracting to other students.
We think that opinion evidence such as that offered by Dr. Evans often reflects only a personal view of the propriety of long hair and, in the absence of factual support, adds little in satisfying defendants' burden. The reference in Lickliter's testimony to specific instances of alleged disruption presents a more difficult problem. These instances permit consideration of an issue expressly reserved in Breen, namely, whether and to what extent disruptive conduct of others in response to plaintiff's long hair, can be used to justify plaintiff's expulsion from school.
We agree with the sentiments voiced by Professor Chafee when he observed that it is absurd to punish a person "because his neighbors have no self-control and cannot refrain from violence," Z. Chafee, Free Speech in the United States, 151-52 (1941). This principle is generally applicable to prohibit the imposition of state sanctions on a speaker when his speech causes disruption or violence by a hostile crowd, Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1, 69 S.Ct. 894, 93 L.Ed. 1131 (1949); cf. Gregory v. Chicago, 394 U.S. 111, 89 S.Ct. 946, 22 L.Ed.2d 134 (1969). Because of its relation to the achievement of education goals, the state interest in maintaining order may be greater in the school context than in society in general. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has indicated that the principles announced in Terminiello are not without application when the free speech of students is threatened. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, supra 393 U.S. at 508, 89 S.Ct. 733. We think a similar principle operates to protect long-haired students unless school officials have actively tried and failed to silence those persons actually engaged in disruptive conduct. Ferrell v. Dallas Independent School District, supra 392 F. 2d at 705 (Tuttle, J. dissenting); Richards v. Thurston, 304 F.Supp. 449, 454 (D.Mass.), aff'd, 424 F.2d 1281 (1st Cir. 1970). The record is silent, however, concerning actions taken by the school officials to punish those students who actually caused the relatively insubstantial disruption which occurred in this
Defendants' second theory argues that short hair is required for health and safety reasons. Thus, Keith Farrand, chairman of the physical education department, testified that long hair may impair the vision of students engaged in sports such as flag football, tennis, and volleyball, and that long hair could "get caught" when students are using the trampoline. He also noted that students with long hair would be forced to go to class with wet hair after a shower following gym class. Lickliter testified that long hair creates significant danger when Bunsen burners are in use.
We think this testimony fails to satisfy defendants' burden of justification for two reasons. First, both Farrand and Lickliter admitted that health and safety objectives could be achieved through narrower rules directed specifically at the problems created by long hair. Thus, Farrand testified that long-haired boys could be made to wear shower caps and Lickliter conceded the use of hairnets worn by girls had prevented injury in the biology labs. Since fundamental rights are involved, we believe that defendants are required to employ narrow rules suggested by their testimony and to avoid infringement of plaintiff's rights to an extent greater than is required by health and safety objectives. Cf. N.A.A.C.P. v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 83 S.Ct. 328, 9 L.Ed.2d 405 (1963); Shelton v. Tucker, 364 U.S. 479, 488, 81 S.Ct. 247, 5 L.Ed.2d 231 (1960).
Second, both witnesses admitted in their testimony that although girls engage in substantially the same activities in gym and biology classes, only boys have been required to cut their hair in order to attend classes. Although classification on the basis of sex has been held constitutional in certain circumstances, Goesaert v. Cleary, 335 U.S. 464, 69 S.Ct. 198, 93 L.Ed. 163 (1948); Miskunas v. Union Carbide Corp., 399 F.2d 847 (7th Cir. 1968); but cf. McCrimmon v. Daley, 418 F.2d 366 (7th Cir. 1969), defendants have offered no reasons why health and safety objectives are not equally applicable to high school girls. On the present record, therefore, we believe that defendants' action constitutes a denial of equal protection to male students.
In conclusion, we hold that defendants have fallen far short of satisfying their burden of substantial justification required by our decision in Breen. We have examined the evidence in this case with a great deal of care. Despite the rationalizations offered by defendants, we believe that their action in excluding plaintiff from North Central resulted primarily from a distaste for persons like plaintiff who do not conform to society's norms as perceived by defendants.
The judgment of the district court is reversed and the cause is remanded for entry of an injunction consistent with the holding of this case.
The language of the letter indicates that it is intended merely as a suggestion to parents and not as a directive setting forth express standards with which students are expected to comply.