Saturday, December 8, 2007

Long hair

The Grant Stranghan case looks likely to have significant legal implications. For those who think this case is irrelevant in fact there are number of other interesting cases to consider as this post will show.

Long hair case may be headache for schools - Local & National - News - Belfast Telegraph

Friday, December 07, 2007

A row over an Ulster pupil's hairstyle could have massive legal implications for schools across Northern Ireland, it was claimed today.

George Stranaghan is planning to take a case to the High Court after his 15-year-old son, Grant, was given a three-day suspension from Ballyclare High School because his hair was two inches long. Since returning to school - almost two weeks ago - the teenager has been kept isolated from his classmates.

If Mr Stranaghan is successful in his legal bid, schools across Northern Ireland could be hit with thousands of similar challenges - potentially spelling an end to the traditional school uniform.
Even if schools insist on pupils wearing a uniform, a victory for Mr Stranaghan could mean a discipline nightmare for principals at schools across the province.

A number of high profile cases have been brought before the courts in England, mainly relating to pupils who wish to dress according to their religious beliefs or wear religious symbols, such as a crucifix.

However, it is believed to be the first time anyone has applied for a judicial review in Northern Ireland in a fight over a pupil's refusal to cut their hair. GCSE student Grant was originally suspended from school on November 21. He returned to school on November 26 but since then he has been kept isolated from other pupils at the school, including at breaktimes.

Mr Stranaghan is applying for leave for a judicial review into the matter and asking for his son to be allowed to return to class, claiming that he is suffering sexual discrimination, as well as a breach of his human rights.

Rosemary Craig, a lecturer in law at the University of Ulster, said she believed schools will be watching the outcome of the case with great interest.

"It could have great ramifications," she explained.

"If you are going to have girls with long hair, then in terms of equality, boys must also be allowed to have long hair.

"If girls have ear-rings, in order to be strictly fair the same must apply to boys and, say, if a girl came in with her head shaved would they suspend her? Can a boy come in with his head shaved? You are going to have strict rules and have to make sure every parent signs up to them.

"Schools are going to have draw up exhaustive lists of what children can and cannot wear. They are going to spell out exactly what children can and cannot wear."

Seamus Searson, Northern Ireland organiser of the NASUWT, said he believes that uniforms play an important role in ensuring equality and a sense of belonging to a school.

"This has the potential to make schools very difficult to manage and discipline children," he said.

"The purpose of uniform and a dress code is to instil discipline in the children, as well as giving them some self-respect by removing some of the differences from the children."

A spokesman from Ballyclare High School said he would not make any further comment on the matter.

As it seems is willing to take the case to court we look at some recent legal cases. There were similar cases in Gloucestershire and Liverpool.

News - Gloucestershire - Schoolboy suspended for long hair

26 July 2006

The family of a boy suspended from a Gloucester school for refusing to cut his hair took legal action to force his re-instatement.

Sam Grant, aged 16, was suspended from Sir Thomas Rich School after refusing to cut his hair short.

The teenager, who has mixed-race parents, said he grew his hair to prevent racist remarks from pupils.

He was allowed back after his parents challenged the school saying the ban had affected their son's schoolwork.

The reaction of the school was ridiculous and we were totally shocked at its inflexibility
Stephen Grant, father

Sam said: "It's easier and friendlier for people to comment on my hair and call me 'mophead' or something like that rather than derogatory names."

"I'm mixed-race and I found that having longer hair ended remarks of a racist nature."

Sam's father, solicitor Stephen Grant, said the school had discriminated against him on grounds of sex and race and that the rule was old-fashioned.

"The reaction of the school was ridiculous and we were totally shocked at its inflexibility and failure to engage in meaningful debate about the underlying issues."

Mediation agreed

He added: "I understand they have school rules but to suspend him from coming back to school unless he cut his hair was draconian.

"Pupils committing acts of theft and damage received less severe disciplinary sanctions."

The incident started in March 2005, when Sam and a number of other boys were told to get their hair cut.

When he refused he was suspended at the end of June for 10 days.

His father applied for an injunction blocking the suspension but as part of the proceedings both parties agreed to mediation which resulted in Sam being allowed to finish his GCSEs.

A spokeswoman for Sir Thomas Rich School said she could not comment under the terms of an agreement reached on the case with the family.

Sam has since left the school, and plans to study for his A-levels at another location.

Two young brothers suspended from their school for having long hair have branded the ban as sexist.

A number of pupils were sent home after half term from St Margaret's Church of England School, Aigburth, Liverpool, for having hair past their collars.

Christian Bridge, 14, who refused to get his hair cut, was not allowed into lessons this week. His brother Dominic, 16, also faces a ban.

Head teacher Dr David Dennison said all pupils knew the school's rules.

A number of boys who flouted the rule were warned to get their hair cut over half term.

There's no way a girl would be told to keep her hair to collar-length
Christian Bridge

The school, which only admits girls in the sixth form, declined to confirm how many pupils were suspended after the break.

At least one pupil, Christian Bridge, refused to cut his hair, and was excluded.

Christian, who wants to grow his shoulder-length hair another six inches, said: "Before all this, we had a verbal agreement that I would keep my hair tied back, and I always did.

Academic standards

"There's no way a girl would be told to keep her hair to collar-length, so why should they tell boys? It is sexist."

Both Christian and his brother Dominic, who also has long hair, are backed by their mother.

But Dr Dennison said: "St Margaret's has an excellent reputation for high standards in respect of personal and academic standards.

"Parents are aware of these expectations on application and are regularly reminded of them by newsletter."

News - Tayside and Central - Pub worker wins sacking damages

14 Feb 2007

A kitchen porter sacked for his unkempt appearance at work has been awarded compensation totalling £6,361. An employment tribunal ruled that Brian Phin, who had long hair and wore earrings, was unfairly dismissed.

He claimed waitresses at the Deacon Brodies pub in Dundee with a similar appearance were allowed to work there.Bearded Mr Phin was also discriminated against on the grounds of sex. The pub, run by Rosecrown Ltd at the time, is now under new management. Mr Phin, whose hair was about 12ins (30cm) long at the time, had agreed to keep his beard tidy, his hair in a hair net and remove his earrings after being given a third warning from his employer.

Tidy-hair policy does not discriminate against Rastafarians, says Employment Agency Tribunal
OUT-LAW News, 18/10/2007

Rastafarians are protected by UK laws that ban workplace discrimination on the grounds of philosophical belief. But a tidy-hair policy does not discriminate against someone with dreadlocks, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has ruled.

Free OUT-LAW Breakfast Seminars, UK-wide. 1:The new regime for prize draws and competitions. 2:How to monitor staff legallyA Rastafarian called J Harris worked as an executive driver for NKL Automotive. When he lost his job, he brought a tribunal claim for direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of his philosophical beliefs, and also victimisation discrimination. His claims were rejected and he appealed against the finding that there was no indirect discrimination or victimisation discrimination.

The Rastafari movement emerged in Jamaica in the 1930s. Followers believe dreadlocks to be supported by a Nazirite vow that appears in the Bible: "All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow."

The tribunal accepted that Rastafarianism is a philosophical belief, and that it is similar to a religious belief and therefore protected under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations (The Regulations were passed in 2003 and have since been extended to cover philosophical beliefs, whether similar to religious beliefs or not. But they had not been extended at the time when Harris lost his job.)

Harris had been supplied to NKL by an agency. NKL expressed concerns to a Mr Jones, who worked for the agency, that Harris's hair was untidy and that he did not represent the company well. NKL's dress code stated that drivers "should have a smart professional haircut and should ensure hair is tidy".

Harris complained to Mr Jones that he was not getting as much work as other agency drivers and complained that, unlike some other agency workers, he had not been taken on as a full-time employee. He believed he was being discriminated against because of his hair, which he wore in dreadlocks, "in accordance with his Rastafarian beliefs".

The tribunal found that the company "did not object to long hair as such … but they did insist upon a tidy appearance." Harris's hair grew more matted – and the tribunal said that it "must have reached a stage where it was unacceptably untidy in terms of NKL's dress code".

But the prejudice against long hair also ties into other forms of discrimination as this report on the problems Sikhs face shows

Racism force Sikhs to cut hair in UK-Rest of World-World-The Times of India

25 Nov 2006,
LONDON: Increasing numbers of racially motivated attacks have forced some Sikh teenagers in Britain to shed their long hair and turbans but many from the community also do so to fit in with their local surroundings.

While some groups in Britain believe that young, westernised Sikhs have long been reluctant to adhere to traditional disciplines, Sikh students say that increasing numbers of racially motivated attacks have had a significant impact on their attitudes.

Dalwinder Singh, an executive board member of the student group said, "We do get a lot of young kids trimming their hair because they see how they are treated.”

"For example, they find that they can't take part in certain things at school and they just don't want to stand out. And the attacks that have been in the news have definitely had an effect. Teenagers just want to fit in with what society is doing," he told The Times.
There are good arguments for dress code in school but hair length since it takes a considerable amount of time to alter is very different thing to wearing jewellery or makeup which can be simply be removed or altered at will. Hair is very much a symbol of personal identity which is exactly why hair cutting has been used as a symbol of punishment and shame down the ages. It is interesting to note that in English conquest of Ireland saw persistent attempts to ban the wearing of long hair by men. Clearly this school controversy continues a long tradition.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I Needless to say, I am happy that Rastafari, in particular is accepted here in the UK and that their is a strong legal backing for anyone who would wish to pratice thier religion.