When A School Resembles North Korea

A few months ago, my 9-year-old brother-in-law went to the hairdresser’s with his dad.  While his dad was daydreaming about something, young Aidan asked the hairdresser to shave a zig-zag design into his hair.  Really, the hairdresser should have asked parental permission before doing this, but didn’t and shaved the design.  Upon returning home, my mother-in-law almost had a heart attack, as it was likely that upon his return to school, Aidan would be suspended.  Apparently extreme haircuts are not tolerated and having a zig-zag shaved in is viewed as “extreme.”

I thought his hair looked cool and I made sure that I told him that.

Luckily for Aidan, his hair grew sufficiently before returning to school at the end of the half-term holiday.  However, today I have come home from work to find a story on the BBC News website about 14-year-old Stan Lock who has been put in isolation this week after “flouting the behaviour policy” of his school.  His crime? Shaving his hair off.  Oh, and he did it for charity, too.  However, I’m not going to focus at all on the (very respectable) reasons for having shaved his head.

I understand that schools must have uniform policies.  Wearing a uniform to school is something that we do in the UK.  When there is a uniform, I understand that it should be worn and the policy adhered to.  I agree with most schools that untucked shirts do not exude high standards of presentation.  I agree with most schools that uniforms should be worn smartly and proudly.  I also agree with most schools that extreme hairstyles do not always fit with the smart dress that is expected in school.  However, shaving one’s head does not constitute “an extreme hairstyle.”

Now, I realise that I may be biased, as I went through most of my secondary school career with a shaved head.  It was easy and I valued an extra five minutes in bed rather than doing my hair in the morning.  My clothes, however, were always in line with the policy.  I wore my uniform with pride.  I always had my top button done and  I polished my shoes every Sunday night.  But then, I also wore my backpack on both shoulders when it definitely wasn’t cool to do so.  My point is that I did well at school and my hairstyle did not alter this.  I didn’t spend ages in the toilets between lessons checking the gel on each spike in my hairstyle inspired by Gareth Gates, unlike some of my peers.  I also didn’t start fights or deal drugs, as the stereotype behind shaved heads would suggest.  I wanted to learn and I wanted to do well, regardless of my hairstyle.

Churchill Academy, where Stan Lock is a pupil, has not commented on why it views this particular haircut as being extreme.  I understand that a 7 inch high red mohican could be viewed as extreme.  In a professional job interview, this wouldn’t be viewed as acceptable for all jobs.  However, I struggle to think of a job where having a shaved head would be unacceptable.  I must admit that my hair is thinning, and I would hate to think that my impending baldness could prevent me from getting a job.

Maybe the leadership team at Churchill Academy would prefer if schools adopted the acceptable haircut charts issued by the North Korean government.  Their ridiculous policy suggests that this is the sort of regime they run.

Photos: BBC NewsThe Guardian

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