Students win battle for beards

A battle for beards at a Canterbury high school could open the door to rule changes around facial hair at other schools.

Lincoln High School students have won a year-long campaign for facial hair, with the school board of trustees agreeing to drop its clean shaven-only rule as a trial.

It came after a survey of staff, students and parents at the school found many supported allowing facial hair.

Secondary Principals’ Association chairman Phil Holstein, who is principal of Burnside High School, said he expected more Canterbury schools would have their policies questioned because of the trial at Lincoln.

“There has mostly been consistency with uniforms, but once you start varying from it more schools start to follow,” he said.

A 16-year-old Hornby High School student was suspended two years ago for refusing to shave. He chose to leave the school and enrol in correspondence school after the dispute.

Most Christchurch high schools, including Hornby, still have a clean shaven-only rule.

Hagley Community College is an exception and has no dress code.

Former Lincoln High School student Andrew Hudson began the campaign for beards last year, putting a formal proposal to the school board of trustees last September.

He said it was about self-expression.

“Many of the male students who I discussed this with viewed that the females at high school had their own way of self-expression by being allowed to wear certain piercings, have their hair styled in any way they wished, as well as colouring it,” he said.

Board of trustees chairman Adrian Paterson said the board had not yet finalised the conditions around the trial, and that was set to happen at the next board meeting.

He said the trial would run until the end of next year, when the board would evaluate it again.

“We will look at how many students take it on board, and whether any issues crop up. The question is will it affect their learning, and obviously we thought it shouldn’t, but we may come across issues.”

Lincoln High School principal Kathy Paterson said the survey had shown opinions on facial hair had been divided.

She would not release the survey results, which she said were still being worked on.

“I would prefer to keep the status quo, but that’s my personal view. We’ve got to be willing to listen to the voice of students and parents, and that’s what we’re doing,” she said.

Hornby High School principal Robin Sutton said his school was open to changes, and had recently made its uniform requirements gender-neutral, after a presentation by students.

But he said there were no plans currently to change rules around facial hair, because it impacted the community perception of students, he said.

“They make judgements based on superficial things like what students look like,” he said.

Linwood College principal Richard Edmundson said students regularly asked him about the clean shaven rule, but he had no plans to change it.

He said that was partly because of the risk of bullying.

“It avoids kids saying I can grow one and you can’t,” he said.

School rules:

•Christ’s College: [Students] must be clean-shaven and their hair and personal appearance must always be neat.

Linwood College: Students at all levels must be clean shaven.

Hagley Community College: Beards allowed.

•Christchurch Boys’ High School: Boys are to be clean shaven.

•Middleton Grange School: Boys are to be clean shaven.

•Cashmere High School: Male students at all levels must be clean shaven.

•Hornby High School: Students must be clean shaven.