PLEASANTON -- Call it a parting shot, but Amador Valley High School senior Kenton Koos wanted to leave his mark with his final yearbook photo.
So he spiked his curly hair, dyed it green, put in an oversized nose ring, and had a tribal tattoo painted on his face with mascara -- a la boxer Mike Tyson. Donning the get-up and the required tuxedo, Koos had his graduation shots taken at a Dublin studio.
But school administrators say the photo is too wild, and won't run it in the yearbook -- a move the American Civil Liberties Union says violates the state Education Code.
"I just wanted to test their boundaries," said Koos, 18. "I didn't think it was a big deal; it was meant to be funny."
Koos isn't the first high school student who has had run-ins with school administrators over yearbook photos. In 2010, a lesbian teen sued a Mississippi school district for refusing to run a yearbook photo of her in a tuxedo. Earlier this year, a Colorado high school drew attention after yearbook editors banned a photo of a female student, saying her outfit was too racy for inclusion.
Amador Valley administrators weren't amused by Koos' photo and told Koos -- who is enrolled in a district independent study program and no longer attends class -- they won't publish it because it goes against school policy, and isn't appropriate.
"The yearbook has guidelines for conformity," said principal Jim Hansen. "Kids need to wear a tux and have a well-groomed appearance."
He described Koos as a "great kid" who usually appears clean-cut.
"This is not how he ordinarily looks," Hansen said. "If it was how he ordinarily looked, I wouldn't have a problem with it ... It's the fact that he doesn't look like that on a regular basis."
Koos' case, according to ACLU of Northern California staff attorney Linda Lye, represents a "blatant violation" of a provision in the state's Education Code which protects freedom of speech in school publications, including the yearbook.
"The education code gives student editors firm control over student publications," Lye said. "As a general rule, school officials are aware of what it provides."
According to Koos, before the shoot, he told the school's yearbook adviser, Julie Foley, of his plans, and was told there was nothing stopping him. Reached via email, Foley said she never discussed school code with Koos, and "honestly thought he was joking about the whole thing."
Koos' parents back their son, who maintains a B-average and has been a member of the school's varsity lacrosse team.
"I'm proud of him for taking a stand," Kathy Koos said. "I don't agree it's a worthy battle, but I will honor him and his choice."
Amador Valley students have mixed feelings about the photo.
"It reflects on the school in some way, so it makes sense they're not putting it in there," said senior Kayla Hawes.
Seniors Marcquis Adams and Alaina Thomas said they think Koos should be allowed to express himself in his photo.
"If he wants it to be his yearbook photo, it's his choice," Thomas said.
Principal Hansen said administrators have offered to publish Koos' photo without the accouterments.
"He's welcome to come and talk to me," Hansen said.
At this point, Koos said he's not considering taking any legal action but hopes he can rally support to get administrators to change their minds.
"I was pretty shocked because I thought I was able to express myself freely," Koos said. "I just want to get my picture in the yearbook."
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184 or follow him at twitter.com/jet_bang.