Hair today, but maybe gone tomorrow

Last updated 13:28 25/06/2014
Lucan Battison
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ

Lucan Battison arrives Wellington High Court for a hearing over his suspension from school for having long hair.

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It's astonishing to think how the lawyer for 16 year-old Lucan Battison has the temerity to compare his battle to retain his long locks with that of Martin Luther King Jr's fight for justice. Let's also not forget his comparison to Kate Sheppard as well.

Lucan's defiance of his principal's wishes are so far removed from King's defence of human rights, it's not funny. In fact, it's an insult to mention them in the same breath.

It began last month when Year 12 student Lucan was suspended by St John's College's principal Paul Melloy 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.

In a further twist, his father Troy Battison sought a judicial review of the suspension in the High Court at Wellington this week.

What a waste of money. Surely, you have to pick your battles. Judging from many of the comments online, Lucan is being urged to cut his hair and go back to class.

Lucan was sent to Melloy's office by a teacher who thought his hair was too long. Melloy asked Lucan to cut his hair, but the student refused and asked the principal to contact his father. The school instantly saw that as disobedience towards the principal. The school believes that his continual defiance of the rules is "harmful and dangerous" because it could influence other pupils who might think Lucan's actions were cool, it was claimed in court this week.

Justice David Collins asked why Melloy did not look at other disciplinary measures such as stopping Lucan from playing for the 1st XV or giving him detention. The school's lawyer said because 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 then made the absurd link that Lucan was following in the footsteps of human rights defenders including Martin Luther King Jr and Kate Sheppard, who challenged authority on a justified basis. Lucan and his parents argue that he has been at the school for three years with the same hairstyle. The suggestion is that the rule has only been applied since Melloy became principal.

Lucan and his family argue that he is abiding by the school's rule because he wears his hair tied up, it is off his collar and out of his eyes. His lawyer argued that Lucan had curly hair, which if cut, would become "boofy and turned into an afro".

It's admirable that Lucan's parents are supporting him, but for the good of their son and his future, they should tell him to cut his hair and get on with his education. Rightly or wrongly, win or lose, future employers may well steer clear of employing him because they may perceive him as being more trouble than he's worth.

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- The Nelson Mail

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