Despite the Human Rights Commission warning a school its rule over a boy’s hairstyle may constitute indirect racial discrimination the school is sticking firm.
Despite the Human Rights Commission warning a school its rule over a boy’s hairstyle may constitute indirect racial discrimination the school is sticking firm.

School gives boy one day to cut hair or he’s out

A devastated Caboolture mother who is fighting to keep her five-year-old son's traditional long hair in the face of his school's strict hair policy has been given one day to confirm they will cut it by the end of the month.

An emotional Wendy Taniela said Australian Christian College Moreton, where her son Cyrus is enrolled in Prep, has given her a formal letter stating the Board stands behind its school policy.

"They said they require Cyrus to conform to the policy and he has to meet all the requirements in length and style if he is to remain a student at the college and he has to meet this by Friday (tomorrow) or he will be unenrolled," Mrs Taniela said.

"One day."

Mrs Taniela said the letter said the "policies are displayed on the College website" and were publicly available.

Wendy Taniela with her 5 year old son Cyrus Taniela whose hair cutting ceremony, which is part of his father’s Cook Islands and Niuean heritage, being still a year away. (AAP image, John Gass)
Wendy Taniela with her 5 year old son Cyrus Taniela whose hair cutting ceremony, which is part of his father’s Cook Islands and Niuean heritage, being still a year away. (AAP image, John Gass)

A shocked Mrs Taniela said she could not understand why the school could not give her son an exemption so he could uphold his traditional and cultural beliefs.

Cyrus is of Cook Islands and Niuean heritage and his family has planned since his birth to cut his hair when he turns seven in keeping with traditional practices.

"I had to walk out (of the meeting). The school policy doesn't mention length or style. It just says it has to be above the collar and neat and tidy. Cyrus' hair is neat and tidy."

Mrs Taniela said her family would not be cutting Cyrus hair.

"This just is not fair," she said.

"The Principal had an option to make an exception or decline our enrolment earlier than three days into the school year."

"Cyrus has made friends and met his teachers."

She confirmed she would be taking the matter to the Human Rights Commission.

A Queensland Human Rights Commission (QHRC) spokeswoman told the Herald earlier this week the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act prevented discrimination on the basis of race at all educational institutions, including non-government schools.

"Cultural practice is generally accepted to be included under the attribute of race," she said.

"Indirect discrimination is where there is a term or condition imposed that people with an attribute protected by the Act (in this case, race) have more difficulty complying with than people without that attribute."

She said a policy that asked a student to cut their hair before their hair cutting ceremony would "appear to fall under that category".

The Herald has contacted the school for comment.

A spokeswoman for the QHRC declined to make further comment following the school's decision this morning.

 

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