By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
DELAND - John Asher Stonesifer has hair. Enough for 16-inch spikes, which he sometimes wears to school. Turns out that under those long spikes are brains that paid attention in civics classes. When the 17-year-old butted heads with school administrators over his porcupine hairdo, he decided to "fight for the right to spike."
In a way that'd make most parents proud.
Asher decided to get the Volusia County's School Board's attention to modify a school dress-code rule, and his story went international. The United Kingdom's Daily Mail, among other international papers, carried the tale of the high-school senior.
Asher hopes his story inspires other teens to understand there are right ways "peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
"I've always been one for when you feel you've been wronged, or feel passionate, to do something about it," he said. "As an American, we have a right to do something about it."
A couple of weeks ago, Asher headed to school with those tall spikes. He usually doesn't. Principal Mitch Moyer spotted them. He said it wasn't hard to.
"I pulled the young man aside during class change and explained to him that he was not to wear his hair that way," the principal said. "The next day, he wore it that way."
At his mother's urging, it turns out. Rae Stonesifer said she told Asher the principal was probably joking. After all, the boy had intermittently worn the hair-raising 'do to school for months.
Alicia Douglas, assistant principal, saw him. She told Asher he'd have to leave campus, wash out the spikes, and come back that day if he wished.
Instead, Asher went home, posted his story on Facebook, tweeted it on Twitter, and started putting together a YouTube video. It wasn't a fit of teen angst. That was just the start to his political organizing. Asher also wrote up a good, old fashioned petition to share with fellow students, and spoke - in full spike - that night at the school board's Sept. 25 meeting. He urged members to consider more defined rules over acceptable hairstyles.
The board can't take actions to public comments at the time they're made. Members can elect to revisit concerns raised at later meetings. Judy Conte, Ormond Beach, was acting chairperson at the meeting. She shared her thoughts about Asher's mountainous hairdo.
"I kind of think it's cute," she told him.
Mr. Moyer said that, despite some reports and rumors, Asher was never suspended over his hair. He was never suspended at all. Mr. Moyer defended administrators' and his decisions and actions, saying the Volusia County Schools gives him space and responsibility to make judgment calls over student dress and appearance.
"I used policy 217," he said.
That policy reads, "It is the responsibility of the principal to see that the dress appearance of any student shall not be extreme, to the point of creating a disturbance, or be hazardous to the student and/or others, or school property, whether or not the specific case is covered by the information below."
Mr. Moyer said Asher's hair length isn't an issue to him. It was those tall spikes.
"I fall back on 'extremity,'" he said.
That's the policy Asher said needs to be better written with more definition.
"I feel the dress code is something they're trying to get to work for all schools," he said. "It should address hair. Why should (judgment) be left to one person?"
Asher's keeping his hair in a ponytail at school these days as he circulates his petition for the school board to better define acceptable hairstyles. He asks for signatures before school, between classes, at lunch, and after school. No civil disobedience here.
"I broke 300 (signatures) today," he said. "My goal is to get the majority of DHS students to sign it."
He said that if the issue isn't settled by the time he graduates, he'll continue urging the school board to better define acceptable hairstyles. He feels he owes it to incoming freshmen.
Asher and Mr. Moyer expressed great admiration for one another.
"He's a good young man," Mr. Moyer said.
The student credited Mr. Moyer as being a role-model who inspires him to the civic actions he's taking.
"I love Mr. Moyer," Asher said. "He's an amazing principal. He's there when you need him with a problem."