1Ls here at GWU Law have spent the better part of the past month writing motions and memos for summary judgment based on a ficticious case of a boy expelled from school because of his long hair with blue streaks. Half the class, as plaintiffs, have been arguing that the nature and manner of his expulsion offends the First and Fourteenth Amendments (allegations of freedom of speech, religion, equal protection, substantive due process, and procedural due process). The other half, as defendants, have argued that hair length and color are not protected rights, and even if they were, the school had a valid interest in restricting them under various scrutiny standards.
A critical case to one of these claims is the 1968 case of Ferrell v. Dallas Independent School District (for those of you playing at home: 392 F.2d 697 (5th Cir.), cert denied 393 U.S. 856 (1968)). The facts are almost identical to every other case like it (and there are a lot of them): there is a school dress code banning male students from wearing hair past the collar of their shirts, the students wear their hair longer, the students get expelled, and the students claim a constitutional issue. In this case, however, there is the added twist that the boys are in a band: Sounds Unlimited. They claim that not only do they have a right under the Fourteenth Amendment, they would be forced to breach their contract with their managing agent, who requires:
[The band] shall maintain their dress and personal appearance in conformity with accepted STANDARDS and CUSTOMS OF ROCK & ROLL GROUPS, COMBO’S [sic] & BANDS including so called BEATLE TYPE HAIR STYLES. 329 F.2d at 698 n.2.
The Fifth Circuit, on appeal, notes fairly tounge-in-cheek that such a a contract would not be enforcable against minors, and proceeds to rule that there is no constitutional right to long hair. This marks the beginning of the Fifth Circuit’s highly conservative stance on the issue. To date, the Circuits are almost perfectly split as to whether the right to keeping one’s hair at any given length is protected under the “liberties” of the Fourteenth Amendment.
As a fascinating historical footnote (aside from the above, quite literally fascinating historical footnote) is the story of the protest song these boys in Texas wrote upon their expulsion from school. As the Fifth Circuit describes it:
At the conclusion of the [expulsion] conference in the principal’s office, the boys left the school building and proceeded to the sidewalk on the west side of the school grounds where the three boys and [manger] Mr. Alexander held a press interview, and pictures, motion pictures and sound tapes were made.
Later the three boys went to a recording studio to write and record a ‘protest’ song about the matter. The recording was completed and the record entitled ‘Keep Your Hands Off It’* was first played on the air Friday morning, September 9. For several days thereafter it was played numerous times on several radio stations. 329 F.2d at 700.
Naturally, in addition to scrutinizing the case for the purposes of my memo, I also endeavored on a quest to find “Keep Your Hands Off It” by Sounds Unlimited. I’m happy to report today that I found the elusive recording.
Sounds Unlimited – Keep Your Hands Off Of It
* – reports vary as to whether the song is properly titled “Keep Your Hands Off Of It” or “Keep Your Hands Off It.” The chorus would certainly suggest the former, but I can’t say for sure.
Update: I noticed this found its way to the Dallas ISD Daily Dish. Hello, Dallas!
Update: A former member of Sounds Unlimited claims I got the wrong Sounds Unlimited in the picture I had above. I took it down, and hope to replace it with a shot of the Texas band soon.