South Canterbury principals are aware of the potential implications after the High Court ruled in favour of a student who challenged his school's hair length rule.
Hawke's Bay student Lucan Battison sought a judicial review after his school suspended him for his hair being too long. He wanted to tie his hair up, which he believed would comply with the school's rule of hair being above the collar.
The High Court lifted the suspension his school placed on him, concluding the conditions imposed on Lucan's return to the school by the board were unreasonable because the hair rule did not say a student's hair must be cut to the satisfaction of the principal.
Mackenzie College principal Reece Goldsmith said it was a concern the communication had broken down so much that the school needed to spend money on lawyers' fees. "Any money that goes to the legal bills is not going to students' education."
Goldsmith reiterated the need to ensure schools were working closely with their communities and parents so disagreements about rules did not escalate, affecting students' learning. However he said there would always be a degree of interpretation of rules.
"It is just making sure there is no room for debate," Goldsmith said.
Timaru Girls' High School principal Sarah Davis said the lesson her school had taken from the court case was to review the wording of the rules in the prospectus "carefully".
"From what I understand on the matter it wasn't clear in the school rules what was expected of him," she said.
Davis said she was not concerned this case would set a precedent for others to question her school's authority.
She said becoming part of the school community meant students following the guidelines that were set out for them. She said these were not unreasonable. "We are very clear when they enrol what is expected of them, and the pupils sign an agreement."
Other schools approached knew of the case but had no comment.
- The Timaru Herald