The father of a teenager who was kicked out of class for not shaving is now seeking help from a lawyer and the Human Rights Commission after the 16-year-old was "stood down".
Jayson Pirini said his son Sheldon, 16, was intellectually challenged and had been barred from attending his two mainstream classes at Te Puke High School earlier this month because he followed his father's instructions not to shave in spite of school rules.
Sheldon was a learning-unit student - a class of students with learning challenges - and "has the mental age of a 10-year-old", his father said.
The teenager was kicked out of mainstream classes and given a razor to take home, Pirini said.
Pirini did not want his son to shave as he did not agree with the clean-shaven school rules as he felt it stripped students of their individuality and personal freedoms.
Last week, Pirini said he and his son were "hauled" back in for a third meeting with the school where they were told Sheldon was stood down from school on the basis the student was still not clean-shaven.
"It's becoming a joke," Pirini said.
Pirini said Sheldon was subsequently stood down on March 6 and 7 but they were yet to receive a formal notice letter from the school.
Pirini said the ordeal had "knocked Sheldon back quite a bit".
"He wants to walk out of here but he needs his education."
Pirini was now seeking a lawyer and had been in touch with a range of advocacy groups, including the Human Rights Commission.
The school told Pirini to present his concerns at the next school board meeting in late this month, he said.
The Bay of Plenty Times asked principal Alan Liddle what consequence Sheldon faced as a result of not shaving his beard.
In an emailed statement, Liddle said: "It is unfortunate that the student concerned is being used to fight against school regulations.
"The student concerned does not want to be in this position and does not want to be in the media.
"The school is following normal school policies and procedures. The school wants the student concerned to be at school and follow school rules."
Liddle would not comment or clarify whether Sheldon had been stood down, a different disciplinary process from a suspension.
The Human Rights Commission declined to comment in case the matter became a formal complaint and could not say whether it had received a formal complaint as its process is confidential.
The difference between a stand-down, suspension, exclusions, and expulsions
- A stand-down is when a child is removed from school for a short period – no more than 5 days in a school term or a total of 10 days in a school year.
- A stand-down can be issued for continual disobedience which is harmful or dangerous to other students.
- Parents receive a letter from the school in the case of a stand-down.
- A suspension is the formal removal of a child from school by the principal, until the board of trustees meets to decide what to do.
- The board may decide to lift the suspension with or without some conditions or extend the suspension with some conditions.
- The principal must follow a fair and legal process involving eight formal steps.
- Exclusion is the formal removal of a child from school if they are under 16 years. If a child is excluded from their school then they must enrol at another school.
- The principal has 10 school days to try to arrange for your child to attend another school. If they can't do this they must inform the Ministry of Education and they will help to find another one for your child to go to.
- Expulsion is the formal removal of your a from school if they are 16 years old or older.
- The principal does not have to try to find another school for your child to attend, but they will tell the Ministry of Education if your child wants to continue with their schooling.
Source: Ministry of Education