PLEASANTON -- Tattoo or not, an Amador Valley High School student will be allowed to appear in his senior yearbook the way he wants.
A school district official said Friday that Kenton Koos -- whose joke photo of himself in a tuxedo, facial tattoo, nose ring and green hair was banned by administrators -- will be allowed to have the photo published after all.
Odie Douglas, the Pleasanton school district's assistant superintendent, said Koos was within his rights to submit the photo for inclusion in the yearbook.
"I think we have to respect his freedom of speech unless it is deemed offensive to any of the protected classes," Douglas said. "This doesn't appear to have violated any of those protections."
Douglas said he spoke Friday morning with Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi, as well as the school's principal, Jim Hansen, regarding the decision to allow the photo.
"We don't want to violate any of the students' rights to free expression," Douglas said.
A staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California told the Bay Area News Group on Thursday the original decision by Amador Valley officials to ban Koos' senior portrait was "a blatant violation" of a provision in the state's education code protecting free speech in school publications.
A "relieved" Koos, an independent study student, said he spoke with Hansen on Friday morning and was told his photo would be used if he still feels strongly about it.
"I was pretty happy that he's going to allow me to have my photo in the yearbook," Koos said. "That's what the whole thing was about. The battle is over."
Despite the apparent victory, Koos said he would take some time over the weekend to consider whether to go ahead with the picture.
"Pretty likely I will, so I can show my grandkids someday," he said.
News that school officials had disallowed Koos' senior head shot provoked a slew of phone calls and strong opinions from readers on both sides of the issue. An online Bay Area News Group poll showed 58 percent of readers believe high school students shouldn't be allowed to dress however they want for yearbook photos.
Koos' mother, Kathy, said even though she was upset by some of the negative comments she heard and read, she learned a lot from her son though the process.
"He accomplished something he set out to do and he was efficient about it," she said. "He saw he could have an impact, and I think that will help him in the future."
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184 or follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.