Ponytail For Ponytail: Mom Mad that Judge Had Her Cut Daughter’s Hair As Punishment

A mother who lopped off her 13-year-old daughter’s ponytail in a Utah courtroom to reduce the girl’s sentence in a nasty bullying case says she regrets her decision to cut her daughter’s locs and has filed a formal complaint against the judge who made her do it.

District Juvenile Judget Scott Johansen initially ordered Kaytlen Lopan to pay damages, spend 30 days in detention and serve 276 hours of community service as punishment for chopping off several inches of hair from the head of a 3-year-old girl without permission from the child or her mother. But then Johansen made Kaytlen’s mom, Valerie Bruno, an offer she couldn’t—and did not—refuse: a reduced sentence for Kaytlen’s ponytail.

“I will cut [the community service] by 150 hours if you want to cut her hair right now,” the judge told Bruno. “I’ll go get a pair of scissors and we’ll whack that ponytail off.”

Bruno agreed and cut her daughter’s hair right there on the spot, then cut it a few more times until the judge and the 3-year-old victim’s mom were satisfied it was short enough. The 11-year-old also chose to get her hair cut, but she was allowed to have it done in a salon.

Of course, now that her kid is bald-headed (well not really, but you get where I’m going here), Bruno is asking for retribution against the judge, saying that “an eye for an eye” isn’t how children should be taught “right from wrong.”

“She definitely needed to be punished for what had happened. But I never dreamt it would be that much of a punishment,” Bruno told the Deseret News, adding that she felt “intimidated” by the judge and his offer.

Long. Blank. Stare.

For real, lady? For real? Let’s be clear about what happened here: Bruno’s daughter and her 11-year-old friend attacked a 3-year-old child at a McDonald’s playground. I say attacked because the girls did not know the 3-year-old, did not have permission to cut the child’s hair and, after asking a McDonald’s employee for scissors, actually went to a store, purchased some shears, and then came back and cut that baby’s hair all… the… way… off.

Punishment was needed. Kaytlen, who also was in court on charges she made a series of phone calls to another teen that included threats of rape and mutilation, got it. It was Kaytlen’s mom who chose to cut her daughter’s hair to lessen the time her kid would be slaving on a work crew. That it was even offered as an option is an outrage. Any teenager who takes time out of her busy day and money out of her own pocket to buy scissors to cut off a 3-year-old stranger’s hair, and then spends eight months of her time on the phone threatening the rape and mutilation of another kid needs to spend some time in a detention center and on a work crew. In fact, I match the detention center and work crew and raise you a psychiatrist’s couch and a few talks with Jesus. Because something is not right with that child. As a mother, I understand Bruno’s instinct to stick up for her kid, but come on, now: cutting her daughter’s ponytail was the easy way out—an out she chose. Have several seats, ma’am. Then go get your daughter some help.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. I know it’s not supposed to be funny, but you had me laughing out loud: “In fact, I match the detention center and work crew and raise you a psychiatrist’s couch and a few talks with Jesus.” This is one of those stories where you just have to shake your head and wonder what in the hell is wrong with people.

  2. Take this wheel, Jesus. Messing with a stranger, a 3 year old at that is unacceptable!
    *sprinkles holy water errwhere*

  3. 100% CO-SIGN

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