You may have read in the news about the school student who was suspended from school for having long hair. The matter has reached the High Court in Wellington and the judge is currently deciding what to do about it.
But this is not an issue about the length of hair – no, it’s about what happens when students disobey schools’ expectations of dress and presentation.
Not all schools in New Zealand have school uniforms. And the hair case is not about school uniforms, it’s all about an individual student and his right to dress and present himself as he wants to. So, it becomes about all students – from primary right through to colleges – and how schools think that students should be.
I’m not aware of any relationship between hair length and ability to carry out tasks at school. If hair is too long, perhaps, and falls in front of your eyes and you can’t see your books, computer screen or your teachers then that might be a problem – but a quick comb, hair-tie or bun will easily fix that.
People who work in factories, with machinery or food might have to tie back long hair for safety so it doesn’t get caught or dangle in something that will be eaten. None of those are likely to be a problem at school. At most, hair will need tying back before sport.
Schools want students to think for themselves, so why can’t they dress for themselves and wear their hair as they wish? It’s not a danger to others or going to prevent them from learning.
Schools have expectations surrounding behaviour because it’s important that all students can learn without being distracted or feeling unsafe, and in school skills are learned for later in life – like how to be sociable and how to treat others fairly. Some schools have uniform expectations because they like people to show which school they go to, it gives a sense of unity to the school, and it solves the problem about what to wear each day.
But none of that has anything to do with hair! Hairstyles are an entirely individual matter and, as long as the hair is not dangerous or unsafe – for sport or cooking – then all students should be allowed to keep their hair as they wish.
If students are happy, then they will learn better and schools will be happy. A better solution for everyone?
Article written by Ben Egerton
[colored_box color=”green”]This is an opinion-based article designed to provoke debate, discussion and further inquiry
amongst your students:[/colored_box]
[colored_box color=”yellow”]Critical Thinking Challenges:
1. Why are some schools so keen to have students have sensible hair lengths?
2. Is hair length really a problem?
[colored_box color=”green”]Practical Tasks:
1. Conduct a poll in your school about hair length, or another aspect of school uniforms. You can be in favour or against hair length or school uniforms. Work out your conclusions and take your findings to your headteacher or someone on the governing board to have them give their response.
2. Do you think that schools should be able to tell students how to dress? Are there any things that students shouldn’t wear?
[colored_box color=”red”]Have Your Say: