READER REPORT:

Hair today, school rules gone tomorrow?

NICK LOUGHNAN
Last updated 13:00 30/06/2014
lucan battison
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Fairfax NZ
LUCAN BATTISON: The teenager won his court case and now his school must cover some of his legal costs.

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The Lucan Battison battle with his school over hairstyle seems to be over for now, with strongly held views on both sides.

It seems we all like to have an opinion on this one. Plenty see the boy's hairstyle as a non-issue, and quite happily quote the judge's report to back their calls of harsh treatment.

Our highest legal authority has interpreted the school rules in favour of Lucan keeping his hair, and Lucan's supporters must be happy about this. 

Let's go back a level, to the school's authority, where the principal was deemed by the judge to have got it wrong.

Our schools operate on many levels, and can be challenging places to run, especially with teenage students. Schools all have governing boards made up of volunteering parents, and they in turn employ a principal and staff to manage and run the places.

The principal, therefore, has authority, and has discretion to call the shots as he sees them. Obviously with Lucan's locks, the hair was too long, even in a tidy bun, and the matter was non-negotiable. Fair enough? Yet the family made the call to challenge this in the courts, and they have won.

Apart from a trivial case going through the judicial review process, where the boy's cause was flippantly portrayed as a parallel to Martin Luther King, Jr. what has the Battison family won?

He keeps his hair yes, but more importantly, the authority of the school principal has been undermined. He had made the call on hair length, bun or not. He leads that school, like it or not. It becomes tricky when we don't like the calls that are made sometimes, but can we really start shopping around to find the authority that suits us more on such a minor matter? 

This decision will not have helped Lucan's school, which obviously has a dress and appearance code, however loosely written, that the school wishes to uphold.

The door is wide open now for more of this legal interpretation, where pupils, with their parents, can start asserting their own preferences for how school authority is followed and which of the school rules they will run with. 

Especially so if costs are awarded against the school. Rest assured, we have plenty of lawyers twiddling their thumbs who are more than keen to find the next case.

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Lucan looks a fine young man, and he already has shown us attributes of selfless bravery in the surf. Unfortunately, the outcome of this hairy issue does not come with the same universal admiration.


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