A 17-year-old student in England was reprimanded by her school "for being too ginger".
It looks like the naturally auburn-haired girl had artificially enhanced her hair colour to a more "vibrant" hue - one she now considers her "trademark".
The school's own website says reports that the student was barred from classes were false. The school stood by its disapproval of the hair colour concerned, citing "high standards" and a policy that "refers to hair when dyed in unnatural colours". Evidently, "two tone hair with yellow dipped dyed ends crosses that line". Fair enough, I would have thought.
Surely the school was well within its rights to require its own standards to be met. If the girl's claim that she's had this hair colour for three years without being challenged about it is true then she should consider it fortunate that she's been able to get away with it for so long. Instead she's using the (admittedly protracted) delay as an excuse to fight the school's decision.
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A lot of people thought that it was unnecessarily petty for the school to take issue with the student's hair colour. But you can argue that particular point both ways: maybe the student is overreacting in making a fuss about it, too. After all, within a couple of years she will have finished school and be able to have rainbow-coloured dreadlocks if she chooses. Surely both the school and the student have better things to worry about (such as, gosh, maybe, educational matters) than such trivial preoccupations as hair.
Of course, it's not the first hair debate to grab the media's attention. Last year a High Court judge ruled that a boy's suspension from a Hawke's Bay school was unlawful.
The year 12 student's refusal to get a haircut did not constitute grounds for suspension. Even while I was surprised that the family saw fit to challenge this matter in court, I remember thinking the student concerned looked like such a nice boy. He had even won an award for bravery. It was easy to have sympathy for his side of the story. Yet the matter seemed to boil down to the fact that the school rules did not specify that ponytails were unacceptable - although plaits, dreads and mohawks were on the prohibited list.
But it was last month's schoolboy rowing controversy that gave litigious parents a truly bad name. Instead of being grateful their sons hadn't been prosecuted for breaching security at Auckland Airport by riding on a baggage conveyor, a pair of parents sought an urgent High Court injunction when St Bede's College decided the boys concerned should be sent home as punishment rather than participate in the rowing competition.
A judge granted the injunction and the boys were able to row but howls of protest could be heard all over the country about people with a sense of entitlement and boys who aren't made to face the consequences of their actions - although it could be argued that having their names forever connected to this debacle (thanks to the power of search engines) will be one lingering consequence for the two boys. Presumably, in their haste to lawyer up, the parents did not consider the downstream effects of the inevitable publicity.
This was a story about orange hair, ponytails, schools, students, parents, rules, rebels, courts, judges, rowing, airports and conveyors. But most of all it was a story about school authority being undermined and distracted. When there are large communities of young people, it makes sense to run a tight ship, to insist on conformity, to prescribe uniforms, to enforce rules and regulations. But, clearly, these days it's unfashionable to embrace such quaint values.
Not all that long ago parents would have supported the position of their child's school or at least tried to sort out matters privately but now disputes are increasingly aired publically through the media or the courts, sometimes in both environments - and that is surely nothing to be proud of. And maybe when students reach the grand old age of 16 or 17 and think they're so special, so important, so creative or so precious that one-size-fits-all rules shouldn't apply to them, they should consider shifting to an educational establishment more closely aligned with their own values, that is, one with lower standards than their existing school.