Lucan sent back to school

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 24/06/2014
LUKAS HAYWARD/Stuff.co.nz

Lucan Battison leaves the High Court in Wellington.

Jol Bates
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ
JOL BATES: Lucan Battison's lawyer says the boy is following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King.

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A 16-year-old kicked out of a Hastings school for refusing to cut his hair will be back in class while he waits for a High Court decision on his suspension.

Lucan Battison was suspended from St John's College on May 22. He has not returned since, despite the suspension being lifted on May 30, on the condition he get a haircut.

His parents sought a judicial review in the High Court, and yesterday Justice David Collins said he was concerned at the amount of time Lucan had been out of class. He asked the school to let him back with his hair the way it was, until he ruled on the suspension within the next fortnight.

Lucan said he was looking forward to going back to school tomorrow, and it was "a bit overwhelming it went this far".

He had not decided whether he would cut his hair, or whether he would change schools if the decision went against him.

At one point in the past month, he considered switching to Napier Boys' High School, but he said he liked St John's and wanted to stay. "It's the people there and all the teachers. I just like it there."

His father, Troy Battison, said he would do it all again even if the ruling was not in his son's favour. It was "high time in 2014 in New Zealand" that somebody's hairstyle should not be a problem.

"For us personally it was about Lucan being able to express himself and go to school. He never wanted to be a rebel, he just wanted to be able to tie his hair back."

Richard Harrison, the college's lawyer, said parents bought into the school's rules when they enrolled their sons. There were 430 boys at the college, and "no-one has joined the Battisons in this application", he said.

"This isn't a case of wanting to wear a badge with a political message - it's someone who doesn't want to cut his hair because it doesn't look good."

Lucan offered to tie his hair back, but this was unacceptable to the school.

The judge questioned if principal Paul Melloy had exhausted all other disciplinary options before suspending Lucan. When he asked whether Melloy had considered excluding him from the 1st XV, Harrison said that seemed "pretty harsh".

"And suspension isn't?" Collins replied.

Lawyer Jol Bates, representing the Battisons, said Lucan should be praised for challenging an arbitrary rule, instead of being publicly criticised.

He compared Lucan to civil rights leader Martin Luther King in standing up for a law he did not think was just. "This is a hard-working Kiwi family not here to cause trouble. They have decided to stand up for something they believe in."

Outside court, Bates said school suspension matters should not be played out in courts. Parents were left with no choice but to seek a judicial review if they disagreed with a principal or board of trustees. "From the outset, the family have always wanted to go to mediation."

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