A school boy who is refusing to cut his hair to conform with
his principal's wishes is either a human rights crusader or
simply disobedient, a court has been told today.
Year 12 student Lucan Battison was suspended by St John's
College's principal Paul Melloy last month for not cutting
his long, curly locks.
The school's board lifted the suspension on the basis that
when the 16-year-old returned to school, he had shorter hair.
If that didn't happen, the principal could send Lucan to the
board for a decision on his future.
Lucan has not returned to school since.
His father Troy Battison is seeking a judicial review of the
suspension in the High Court at Wellington.
Both were in court today; Lucan, with his hair tied back,
listening to the hearing.
The school's lawyer Richard Harrison told the court Lucan was
sent to Mr Melloy's office by a teacher who thought his hair
was too long.
Mr Melloy asked Lucan to cut his hair, but the student
refused and asked the principal to contact his father.
"Straight away you've got a refusal of the principal's
request," Mr Harrison said.
"We've got continual disobedience."
His defiance of the rules was "harmful and dangerous" because
it could influence other pupils who could think Lucan's
actions were cool, Mr Harrison said.
There would not have to be evidence of anarchy or social
disorder for Lucan to be suspended, because the principal
would need to be ahead of that, he said.
Justice David Collins asked why Mr Melloy did not look at
other disciplinary measures such as stopping Lucan from
playing for the 1st XV or giving him detention.
Mr Harrison said because Mr Melloy was told by Lucan, in the
presence of his parents, he would not comply, other
disciplinary options were not open to him.
Lucan's lawyer Jol Bates told the court Lucan followed in the
footsteps of human rights defenders including Martin Luther
King Jr and Kate Shepherd, who challenged authority on a
The school's rule around hair length was that it needed to be
off the collar and out of the student's eyes.
Lucan would wear his hair tied up, off the collar and out of
his eyes, so was therefore abiding by the policy and should
not have been suspended, Mr Bates said.
"We're not splitting hairs."
Lucan had been at the Catholic school for three years with
the same hairstyle, Mr Bates said.
Lucan had curly hair, which if cut, would become "boofy and
turned into an afro", he said.
"He's simply not comfortable [with that]."
His hair was not a health and safety issue, nor was it a
distraction to other students, he said.
Earlier this year, Lucan received a bravery award for for
helping to save two women from drowning off a Napier beach in
January last year. He was also in the school's 1st XV rugby
team, Mr Bates said.
Neither of those factors were taken into account when Lucan
was suspended, he said.
The case is continuing.