Opinion divided on schoolboy's long locks

Hastings St John's College pupil Lucan Battison outside the High Court at Wellington last week. Photo from The NZ Herald.
Hastings St John's College pupil Lucan Battison outside the High Court at Wellington last week. Photo from The NZ Herald.
Lucan Battison's tied-up bun has parted opinion in New Zealand like a healthy head of hair.

Following a call for feedback, Otago Daily Times readers have shown they are split between wanting to cut Lucan and his rebellion against school rules back to size and those who are pulling their hair out over the fact that a boy with long locks is a problem in the 21st century.

In an unscientific poll of readers' opinions, about 43% told the ODT they supported Lucan in his fight to keep his long hair and 25% thought he should cut his hair or change schools.

Lucan Battison (16), a pupil of St John's College in Hastings, was suspended from the school last month after failing to meet its ''off the collar and out of the eyes'' hair policy.

A High Court judicial review in Wellington ruled in favour of the year 12 pupil, stating the suspension and the school's hair policy were unlawful.

Justice David Collins said Lucan was willing to wear his hair tied back in a bun and when he did, his hair was above his ears, off his collar and out of his eyes.

While Justice Collins found favour with Lucan's hair, it did not exempt him from criticism in the court of public opinion.

One reader told the ODT the outcome of the dispute was ''not a good result''.

''Schools should be able to set any rules they deem appropriate to raise our children in a satisfactory manner,'' the reader said.

''It is our choice to send our kids to this school. Life has rules, workplaces have rules, homes [should] have rules.

''All this court case has done is say to our children `if you don't like the boundaries - rebel'.''

Another reader agreed, saying: ''Rules are rules. Yip, might be dumb, but it's still a rule. He should [have] cut his hair or left school. So disappointed in his parents. Should never [have] gone to court.''

Others were more sympathetic.

''I don't think that schools should make rules around what kind of hair style or colour a student can have. People should be able to have fun and look however they like. What they are learning is more important than how they look,'' one reader said.

Another called for gender equality and said ''why can't a guy'' have long hair at school if girls could.

''I don't get the point of having separate rules for separate genders - different times we're living in,'' the reader said.

Another 32% of readers were unclear in their opinion, but thought it should not have gone to court.

''Trivial and unimportant,'' one person said.

''Strange, but sad how we seem to make such a big issue out of trivia,'' another commented.

 Lucan's father Troy says he plans to sell the story of his son's High Court battle to a women's magazine and use the proceeds to help pay St John's College's legal costs.

He told Hawkes Bay Today there had been inaccuracies in reporting the issue and he would sell the ''real story'' to the highest bidder.

Missing the point

In this debate people have missed the point. The school has a dress standard code and even requires the parents and children to sign it when they apply to the school which in this case they did. And in which Lucan complied.

The issue here is that the new principal had decided to apply a more stringent standard than the one both parties had agreed to and thus it was deemed unlawful. 

What needed to happen is the school board needed to draft a new set of standards if they so wish and notify parents and students that as of next term or year they will need to comply or move schools this would have been legal.

"Can a school set standards" is a misdirection from the fact the the principal had decided to enforce his own set of standards, in violation of the exsisting agreement.

The fact it went so far with only one possible outcome (due the principal breaching the contract between the school and the family) despite mediation offers from the family is a bad look for the school especially as everything indicates Lucan is otherwise the sort of student every school wants .

A top notch student with no history of defying authority and causing disturbances really should have been treated better. [abridged]

 

 

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