Pupil's stand has hair-raising effect
Schools will have to review their policies on hair styles and conduct to put them in line with the constitution. This follows the suspension and readmission of Bryanston High School pupil Dylan Reynders, 17, for refusing to cut his hair.Now a call is being made by the DA to the Gauteng education department for a review of schools' policies. It is believed that many of them violate the constitution.DA Gauteng education spokesman Khume Ramulifho said the party had been asked to intervene by many parents whose children had been put out of class for infringing attire, hairstyle or religious policies."Parents are afraid to pursue the matter," said Ramulifho, because of fear of victimisation of their children.Dylan spent his school holidays reading the Schools Act, the constitution and the Bill of Rights.He decided that he would not cut his hair on his return to school.He was suspended without warning on his first day back."The hairstyles they want us to keep are similar to those from apartheid," he said. "We end up looking like mushrooms and I'm not the only one who feels this way."I told them [the school] that it was unconstitutional for them to suspend me but I was laughed at."School rules on hair for girls and boys are set out in the Bryanston High School diaries given to all pupils but are not included in the code of conduct shown on the school's website.Boys' hair may not touch the ears or collar, or curl around the necks or ears - as Dylan had done.Dylan - who returned to school on Monday on condition that he adhere to the current rules - will within the next five weeks, through the Representative Council of Learners, be able to contribute to the new policy on pupils' hair.The Grade 11 pupil said boys want to be able to dress their hair as girls do and be allowed to grow ponytails, provided they are neat.He said the school's decision to review its code of conduct could lead the way for other schools and prevent many pupils from being punished for their preferences."The last thing we care about is our hair, so they shouldn't take it so seriously. But we do care about our education and they shouldn't get in the way of that," he said.The president of the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of SA, Basil Manuel, said schools were about boundaries on behaviour and rules were essential. He said he would support a review of codes of conduct at schools to determine whether they were still fit for purpose. Some of them had been drawn up decades ago.But the Freedom of Expression Institute's Raymond Louw said Dylan knew about the school's rules when he was enrolled."Even the way he went about his protest was not the right way," said Louw.Hair and attire have been an issue at several schools around the country. A pupil of Eben Donges High, in Kraaifontein, was allowed back in August after being suspended for having braids that were too thick.A Durban Girls' High School pupil took her school to the Equality Court after being suspended in 2005 for wearing a nose stud.A Rastafarian pupil from Siphamandla High, in Western Cape, was allowed back in 2013 after being ordered to stay away until he cut his dreadlocks.Gauteng education department spokesman Phumla Sekhonyane said governing bodies were being trained on their functions, including policy development, and would be better "empowered to confront policy issues at schools on completion of the training".In an earlier statement she said that schools' codes of conduct were subject to the law, and could "in no way violate the rights of pupils".The CEO of the Governing Body Foundation, Tim Gordon, said unless the complaint was based on "genuine" cultural or religious beliefs, schools could not be expected to make decisions on a "whim or fancy".Gordon advised that governing bodies "keep up with the times and review whether the rules are still appropriate".The general secretary of the SA Democratic Teachers' Union, Nkosana Dolopi, agreed that a review of codes of conduct was necessary."We are not, however, saying that there should be lawlessness in schools. Children should be neat at all times and dressed accordingly."Policies should be sensitive to the fact that pupils can't be denied access to school."..