Published April 29, 2008
PORTLAND, Ore. – One Portland school is telling some students: shave your eyebrows or go home.
Several students at Centennial High School have picked up on a trend to shave lines into their eyebrows. They say it's a fashion statement; school administrators, however, contend it's a gang sign.
Centennial administrators are telling students who shave the lines that they can't return to school until they take care of the problem — by shaving their eyebrows off. Four students have been sent home. One came back immediately with a bandage covering the shaved brow. The others are still out of school.
Assistant Principal Mark Porterfield said the students are not suspended, but they are not allowed in school until they cooperate.
Andy Gonzalez, a junior at Centennial, was studying for a test when a security guard approached him and told him to go home. He told the teenager that the one vertical line down his brow looked like a gang symbol and said, "If you're going to come to school like that, don't come at all."
Gonzalez, 17, says he isn't in a gang and shaved the lines to look cool and impress girls. But he says he'd be humiliated if he had to shave his brows off.
The vertical line in brows was popular with rappers years ago and has returned recently with hip-hop star, Soulja Boy. But police say gangs have co-opted the trend for their own use.
In this case, Gresham police say members of Southside 13, a prominent Latino gang in east Multnomah County, are marking themselves by shaving one line into an eyebrow and three lines in the other to symbolize 13.
"We don't dictate policy for any schools," Officer David Schmidt of the East Multnomah County Gang Enforcement Team said. "We just tell them what we see the latest trends are. This is a way for them to identify each other. In a school setting, it intimidates other kids."
Centennial implemented the rules about the eyebrows after other area high schools, including Gresham, did.
But other schools say their policy is different, they only look for the markings of the 13 style and would not send students home for having different shavings. If students did shave the symbols into their eyebrows, Gresham administrators say they would ask them to fill in the marks with an eyebrow pencil.
Centennial students say they are getting conflicting messages about what is allowed and when they can return. They also say officials have not announced the rules.
Junior Jasiel Carmona says he was told by a vice principal that he could return if he colored his eyebrows in with makeup, but a security guard told him he's have to shave them off.