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ASHTABULA, Ohio (AP) _ Seventh-grader Josie Kmiec's patriotic ponytail caused school officials in this northeastern Ohio town to see red.

The 12-year-old was sent home Wednesday from West Junior High School by her principal for spray painting her hair red, white and blue with temporary coloring.

``I thought it was a good way to show my patriotism because it's Sept. 11,'' Josie said about the anniversary of last year's terrorist attacks. ``But the principal got upset about my appearance and told me to call my mother to come pick me up.''

Her mom, Janis Kmiec, arrived at 8 a.m. and said Principal Sherry Cooley told her that Josie violated the student handbook, which states that clothing should not distract from the learning environment.

``I'm very upset and disappointed because Josie was really excited about going to school like that and then she ended up missing class,'' she said. ``They squashed her right to self-expression.''

Superintendent William Licate said Thursday the discipline code says students can't attract undue attention to themselves.

``That code is a district-wide policy but sometimes it is how you interpret it,'' Licate said. ``(The principal) thought it caused undue attraction to wearer.''

Licate said Cooley told him the girl washed the color from her hair and was back in class by third period.

A message seeking comment was left at Cooley's office Thursday.

Josie's 15-year-old brother, Jake, sprayed red, white and blue hair color on his head in the shape of the American flag.

``Lakeside High didn't have a problem with it,'' he said.

Ashtabula is 53 miles northeast of Cleveland.