Haircut teen - crusader for rights, or rebel?

St John's College student Lucan Battison was suspended for refusing to cut his hair and has his parents' support.
St John's College student Lucan Battison was suspended for refusing to cut his hair and has his parents' support.
A 16-year-old student who has not been at school since he was suspended for refusing to cut his hair last month will be back in the classroom by Wednesday.

The case has centred around whether Lucan Battison is a crusader for human rights or is being plain disobedient.

The Year 12 student was suspended from St John's College in Hastings on May 22 after telling Principal Paul Melloy he would not trim his long, curly locks.

Lucan's father Troy Battison sought a judicial review of the suspension, which was heard in the High Court at Wellington yesterday.

Justice David Collins asked the school's lawyer Richard Harrison whether Mr Melloy could find a way for Lucan to return to school today, with no repercussions, until Justice Collins was able to make a decision on the review.

Mr Harrison said that would be fine, but asked whether Lucan could return on Wednesday to give Mr Melloy time to speak with staff about the situation.

Lucan, with his hair tied back, and his father were both at yesterday's hearing.

Mr Melloy said it would be a "disaster" if Justice Collins struck down the school's rules, which the school's community had put in place, as that would result in major repercussions across the country with other students not wanting to follow school rules such as wearing a uniform.

When Mr Melloy initially asked Lucan to cut his hair, he refused, and asked the principal to speak with 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.

Lucan's lawyer Jol Bates told the court Lucan followed in the footsteps of human rights defenders including Martin Luther King Jr and Kate Sheppard, who challenged authority on a justified basis.

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.

He 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, Mr Bates said.

He said Lucan was following the example of other human rights crusaders.

"Certain people in history have stood up to laws that they don't think are just and that was the context of that comparison," he said.

Outside court Lucan said he was "pretty happy" about going back to school this week.

"I'm looking forward to going back ... it's been pretty stressful."

He had a lot of friends supporting him, he said.

It was "overwhelming" that the process had made it to the High Court.

At no stage had he considered cutting his hair, but there had been a lot of strain around the issue. "I had a lot of fights with dad".

If the judge ruled against him, Lucan said he did not know whether he would decide to cut his hair or move to a different school.

"I'll decide that then."

He was no rebel or human rights crusader, he said.

Lucan's father said they got a fair hearing and even if they lost the fight, it was worth it.

"It was about Lucan being able to express himself."

He would leave it up to Lucan to decide what to do if the ruling did not go their way, 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. Neither of those factors were taken into account when Lucan was suspended, Mr Bates said.

Justice Collins reserved his decision.

Mr Melloy said he did not want to comment on the case.

Timeline:

* January, 2013: Helped rescue two distressed swimmers at Waipatiki Beach near Napier;

* April, 2014: Receives a bravery award for his actions from the Royal Humane Society;

* May 22, 2014: Is suspended from St John's College for refusing to cut his hair;

* May/June, 2014: School refuses mediation with Lucan and his parents; and

* June 23, 2014: High Court judicial review into the suspension.

 

Hair today, still hair tomorrow

While I agree that Lucan should be able to have his hair styled how he wants at school I still think the High Court is the wrong place to have his protest. I also think that he should obey the teachers regardless of whether the rules are sensible or, as in this case, not. The alternative is finding another school, as there are schools which are more progressive. If he feels strongly enough about his hair to go to court over it then he certainly can go to the effort of finding another Catholic school.

No moa

Thanks for that link, elv, I must say. There's a huge bird up front, gave me a heart attack! Is that a mascot?

School website

I suspect that they were in such a hurry to suspend Lucan that they forgot to trim Jesus' hair in the main photo of their school website. 

Learning due process

There has been much puritanical objection to this student's stand and surprising media comment subjudice. Everything's a learning experience. Lucan's learning about rights, responsibility, individualism and conformity - all valuable, but most likely not NCEA Standards. He is not leading a vrusade to bring down the education system as we know it, and not everyone works for a Boss.

Lucan's locks

I can see this issue from two fronts - the school's, where it has dress standards which are applicable across the board; and Lucan's, where he wants to be "himself."  Taking it further, it would be akin to a female wanting to wear her mini skirt instead of the regulation knee-length (or longer) tartan skirt.  Regardless of Lucan's achievements, he is still a schoolboy and he needs to remember that. When he eventually enters the workforce, there will be no choice for him but to follow his elders' instructions and company rules, regardless of his personal preferences, as the company will probably have some sort of dress code too.

Back to the future

1950 here we come! Progressive! Inclusive! Tolerant! Next thing you know he will be swinging his hips and singing  rock and roll! Just wait till he gets to University - they will set him straight. Oh, that's right, he wont get to University, because you kicked him out of school for not cutting his hair. Get a life.

Pathetic

This is crazy that in the 21st century we are having this stoush.

There is nothing wrong with the kid's hair, he ties it up and it's very tidy.

They obviously have some uneducated people running the school who would be better to seek employment as wardens running a prison.

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