Dad pulls four-year-old son out of private school after haircut demand

An Aussie dad has pulled his young son from a prestigious private school after he was ordered to cut the boy’s long hair.

Gold Coast dad Mark Morris felt so strongly about the school’s order that he lodged a complaint against A.B. Paterson College with the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).

Mark bought the complaint to QCAT on the basis of sex discrimination, claiming the Anti Discrimination Act would be breached if his son was forced to cut his hair because “boys” appearance choices are restricted based on gender in a way that is more restrictive, and therefore are disadvantaged, the Gold Coast Bulletin reported.

He said Bulletin he was also concerned about the infringement on his son’s “human rights” due to the invasive reach into his personal autonomy, Kidspot added.

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In January, QCAT Senior Member Ann Fitzpatrick refused to grant an interim order, meaning Mark’s son would have to cut his hair before being allowed to attend school.

The concerned dad has since withdrawn his complaint due to the burden of financial and emotional costs, but he has also taken both of his children out of A.B. Paterson College.

The family is now homeschooling both children.

‘I didn’t want to have to physically hold him down’

Mark explained he was aware of the policy during his son’s prep interview, but said the school encouraged him to submit a proposal to update the College’s hair requirements “in the spirit of gender equality and inclusion”.

He said he submitted the proposal in June, 2023, but didn’t receive a response until November despite many attempts to seek clarification, the Bulletin stated.

He was eventually told his son would be sent home from school if he attended with his current hairstyle.

“If the school had not taken 19 weeks to respond, we could have used that time to talk to our son about cutting his hair. It was never a hairstyle we encouraged, it just grew and he liked it. It had become part of his identity,” said Mr Morris.

“I just did not want to have to physically hold him down at the hairdresser for the sake of a rule which no one has ever been able to explain the reason for.

“Alternatively, we could have made arrangements for both of our children to attend other schools. With such late notice coming at the end of a school year and into the Christmas period, we had no time for either of these options.

“The Queensland Human Rights Commission did help us and we really wanted to take this fight on under the Anti Discrimination Act, but it all became too much in terms of time, money and emotional expense.”

‘We encourage all our students to be well-presented’

A.B. Paterson College principal Joanne Shehy told the publication the school’s position was affirmed by QCAT earlier this year, with Senior Member Fitzpatrick citing case law on the principle that “a dress code is not required to make provisions which apply identically to boys and girls”.

“Like other private schools, we have a uniform policy,” she said.

“Ours is intended to encourage all our students to be well-presented, respectful, and unified.

“Whilst there are obvious differences applicable to each gender, clear standards of presentation are expected of both male and female students. Mr Morris agreed to this policy when he enrolled his children at the College.

“Relaxation of the policy has the effect of undermining its purpose and the expectations of all the parents who enrol their children at the College.

“Whilst we will always adjust the application of a policy where reasonably required, for example where this is necessary to accommodate a student’s race, culture, religion, or gender identity, in this particular instance we did not consider an adjustment was required.”

‘Private schools seem to play by their own rules’

Melbourne private schools have hit headlines recently for their harsh hairstyle rules for male students, with one mother telling the Herald Sun the policy was outdated and discriminatory.

“The school wouldn’t allow my son to have his bleached blond hair and it shows the policies are inconsistently applied between boys and girls,” she said.

Mr Morris said he was calling on all parents, teachers and students to speak up and for funding to schools without gender-equal rules to be reconsidered.

“Public schools are reportedly underfunded, while up to 50 per cent of private school funding comes from the taxpayer. Yet private schools seem to play by their own rules,” he said.

“There is plenty of evidence why gender equality in schools is a good thing and absolutely no evidence why it’s a bad thing, yet it continues unless we act.”

This article originally appeared on Kidspot and was reproduced with permission

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