A young boy with long hair will have to cut his locks to attend prep at a school after a ruling by a Queensland tribunal.
The school enforces strict rules regarding hairstyles that children must abide by.
The boy wears his hair in a “neat topknot style” and his parents were told he would be sent home and not allowed to return without a haircut.
However, the child’s father is challenging the school’s policy and has complained to Queensland Human Rights Commission.
As the date of the first day of school approached, the boy’s father asked the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an interim order to allow the child to attend school, which was refused.
The judgement de-identified the parties, with the father referred to as ZA and the boy XA.
ZA argued that the college’s “current hair style guidelines restrict choice and freedom for boys’ appearance in a way based on gender that is more restrictive and therefore disadvantages boys compared to girls”.
He also contented that the school’s policy was in effect “controlling” the boy’s hair choice outside of school and violated his “personal autonomy and human rights”.
Senior Member Fitzpatrick observed that there was no suggestion of “racial, cultural, religious or gender identity significance” to the boy’s hairstyle.
He suggested it was the boy’s parents who had chosen the boy’s hairstyle, given the child’s age, estimated by the tribunal to be four or five years old.
“… it is reasonable to assume that XA’s hairstyle is a styling choice made by his parents and that the views set out in the Complaint as to restriction and disadvantage are the views of ZA,” Senior Member Fitzpatrick wrote.
The school claimed ZA was told that XA would have to cut his hair before starting as per the school’s Code of Behaviour — and that the parents had agreed to follow the policy.
The Code of Behaviour includes that: “Hairstyles must be in keeping with the neat and conservative style of the uniform” and “Boys’ hair must be trimmed about the collar and the ears, and must not have any significant difference in length between the side and the top”
ZA brought the application on the basis of sex discrimination and Senior Member Fitzpatrick cited case law on the principle that, “a dress code is not required to make provisions which apply identically to boys and girls”.
Two of the father’s children are already attending the school and ZA told the tribunal that he would send XA to a different school if the boy was required to cut his hair at the college.
Senior Member Fitzpatrick described that as a viable option.
“XA is very young. He has not yet commenced school. Attending a different school is not a detriment to him, although it may be inconvenient to the family.”
Senior Member Fitzpatrick observed that allowing the boy to attend the school with long hair would undermine the Code adding, “others may wish to flout the policy and unnecessary friction in the student body may result.”
He added XA still had the right to pursue the complaint under the Anti Discrimination Act without the benefit of an interim order.