A hero schoolboy is heading to court in a rare legal fight after he was suspended from college because his hair is too long.
Lucan Battison, 16, who received a bravery award in April for helping to save two women from drowning, was suspended from St John's College in Hastings just a month later after being told he needed a haircut.
His father, Troy, has gone to the High Court seeking an urgent judicial review of the school's decision. The case is likely to be heard later this month and principal Paul Melloy and the board of trustees will defend their actions.
When contacted yesterday, Troy Battison referred questions to lawyer Jol Bates, who said legal proceedings were "very much a last resort", and the family wanted to get Lucan back to school as soon as possible.
"They are doing all they can to get Lucan back to his education at a school where Lucan holds the teachers in the highest regard."
He would not go into detail while the case was before the courts, but said Lucan's parents "had repeatedly tried to get the school to attend a formal mediation, but sadly, the school has shown no interest in that".
Lucan was one of four teens to be recognised by the Royal Humane Society in April for their rescue of Analisa Tipu, 21, and Leilani Wong, 18, at Waipatiki Beach, near Napier, in January last year.
Lucan, who was 14 at the time, and a friend ran into a 1.5-metre swell and swam out to the women, who were being dragged out to sea in a rip.
After the rescue, Lucan told The Dominion Post: "People have been congratulating me and stuff, but I don't really see why . . . I think everyone would do it, wouldn't they?"
St John's College, a state-integrated Catholic boys' school, has a bylaw requiring hair to be "off the collar and out of the eyes". It is understood Lucan offered to tie his hair back, but this was unacceptable to the school.
Melloy said: "This is an unfortunate incident, in which our school is simply following the upkeep of school standards, as set down by school policy."
Melloy took the principal's role last month, having previously been at Sacred Heart College in Auckland.
Katrina Casey, the Ministry of Education's head of sector enablement and support, said that "while long hair isn't grounds to stand down or suspend a student, challenging behaviour can have a negative impact on the student, their peers and the overall culture of a school".
If a student had been asked to cut their hair a number of times and had chosen to ignore it, then a school could suspend them for continued disobedience, she said.
"When we're made aware of inconsistencies in decision-making regarding stand-downs and suspensions, we work alongside the school concerned to ensure that appropriate practices are followed. We can also offer board training and support where appropriate."
- The Dominion Post