23 Jun 2014

Decision reserved over Lucan's locks

8:44 pm on 23 June 2014

A decision should be made by the end of next week in a case pitting a boy's right to wear his hair long against a school's right to impose rules and discipline students.

Lucan Battison has taken a legal challenge to the High Court in Wellington over his suspension from St John's College in Hastings for refusing to cut his hair.

Lucian Battison.

Lucian Battison. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

In May this year, the school suspended the boy for breaching a school policy requiring him to have short hair.

In court on Monday, his lawyer Jol Bates questioned why in 2014 a school was trying to dictate the length of students' hair.

He said the school's rules could not over-ride Mr Battison's right to personal integrity over his body and they breached his human rights.

Mr Bates said his client had been at the school for three-and-a-half years, and his hair was kept above his collar and out of his eyes as the rule required. It had only become an issue when a new principal took charge, the court was told.

However, the college's lawyer Richard Harrison said Lucan Battison had signed a commitment to abide by the rules when he began attending the school.

He said a school could not operate if students were openly defiant of the rules and young men need to have boundaries.

St John's College has agreed that Lucan Battison can return on Wednesday, pending Justice Collins' decision, which was reserved. It is likely to be released before the school holidays in July.

Outside court, Troy Battison said he believed his son had a fair hearing. He said if Justice Collins rules against them he will leave it to Lucan to decide what to do next, as making that decision and suffering the consequences of it is part of him growing into a man.

Jol Bates believed the case should not have ended up in court, as mediation would have been a preferable option.

However, he said if mediation isn't possible, the only remedy available under the Education Act is for families to seek a judicial review, as the Battisons did.