The school should have known better and accepted the offer to go to mediation over the issue of long hair. It has cost them, not only thousands of dollars for their own legal bill but they also have schoolboy Lucan Battison's legal costs to pay as well.
I bet St John's College in Hastings are now asking themselves was it worth it?
Lucan decided he was being unfairly treated when the newly-appointed school principal decided he wanted to see the rules relating to student's hair length more stringently applied.
Lucan had worn his hair in the same fashion, tied back, off his collar and out of his eyes for the past three years. Why should he have to cut his hair after complying with the school's rule in the past? It's a funny thing but when people feel they are being treated unfairly, they react. The principal and the school board of trustees failed to understand this.
I visited a private Christian school in the Wairarapa some years ago. I was invited to speak at the school assembly and to meet with the senior students and teachers. The principal was proud of the discipline at the school. There was a very detailed document that parents signed when their child was accepted into the school. The rules were strict and you were left in no doubt they were to be followed.
I remember asking if any of the rules were ever challenged. "Absolutely not" I was informed.
"As a Christian school we have a duty to put rules in place to guide and direct the behav-iour of our students. We expect parents to support us in this."
Apparently, if you didn't agree on any aspect of how the school was run the student, along with parents, was expected to go quietly. End of story. I do know over the years a few good teachers left that school. Too draconian and harsh in their treatment of students, I'm told. Private schools - usually Christian - have always done their own thing. Having attended a Catholic school for eight years when I was growing up, I can't recall any parent challenging school rules. It would have been unheard of. And if I complained to my parents that brought a short, sharp rebuke. The nuns and priest always knew best. I know better now.
So Lucan Battison has won his High Court challenge to his suspension from school. He is now back at school getting on with his studies. I don't think the High Court decision will see students revolting at his school or in other schools.
From time to time it may be necessary to have rules reviewed. Are they still appropriate and relevant or could the school do some things differently? Lucan seems like a pleasant, well-rounded young man. I think he's off to a head start attending a Catholic secondary school. It was only a few years ago that many Catholic schools in the country had a waiting list. Apparently parents felt their children would learn more in a school environment that fostered respect and discipline in thought and action. Students would also hopefully understand and develop their own set of enduring personal values. Never too young to "know what you stand for otherwise it's too easy to stumble at the first hurdle and fall for anything in the future".
I don't agree, though, that having to follow a rule about hair length was an infringement on Lucan's human rights. That is a stretch too far. In a week where we have seen three foreign reporters jailed in Egypt for merely doing their job, reporting on current events, that's what I call a gross breach of human rights. I guess it's all relative though. Treat people fairly and you'll get a different outcome. That's the point I think Lucan and his father were trying to make.
Merepeka lives in Rotorua. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart the spread of political correctness.