16 year old Mietta Manning caused something of a social media stir yesterday after sharing a petition addressed to her school council to revoke the hair colour policy. The grade 10 student’s argument that ‘that students should not be forced to conform to overtly conservative community standards (it’s 2015), and that the colour of their hair – natural or otherwise – has no bearing whatsoever on their ability to fully participate in all school activities, nor does it reflect poorly on the school’s image within the broader community,’ was met with a mixed response.
But, it seems that students aren’t the only ones backing the petition.
“I’m a teacher” wrote Jessica Graham “and I’m sick of having my professional responsibilities as an educator be undermined by pointless conservative obsessions with student appearance via hair colour, nail polish, and piercings, particularly at public schools.”
Another signee Ben Mackenzie stated his reasons for pledging his support.
“I have given workshops in many secondary schools helping students who struggle with self esteem. Self expression and finding something they like about themselves are huge parts of this and I can see no reason to impose arbitrary sanctions on hair colour. Surely such a rule is a waste of everyone’s time, teachers and students alike, and can only negatively impact any student whose style and taste is banned. If parents wish to forbid such a thing that’s within their right but it is hardly a school’s place.”
Mietta Manning’s petition also suggests that Koo Wee Rup Secondary High School hair policy (like many others around the country) may contravene the equal opportunities act 2010.
Our school’s current hair colour policy states that students can only have their hair a ‘natural’ colour. Despite it being illegal to discriminate against hair colour (Equal Opportunity Act 2010), the school policy is steeped in appearance judgement, and discriminates against those who want to express themselves through alternative hair colour. Teachers are forced to waste valuable time reprimanding and threatening students who don’t comply, and students feel their self-expression and creativity is stifled in this environment.
We, the undersigned students, supportive parents, teachers and community members, request that the Koo Wee Rup Secondary College Hair Colour Policy be revoked. We feel that the current policy contravenes the Department of Education’s own guidelines around appearance policy:
‘…is it reasonable by contemporary standards and does it avoid unnecessarily intruding on students’ rights in matters of personal appearance?’
A private Facebook group conversation discussing the petition however, showed that not everyone was in support of the change – feeling that school students should be more respectful of rules.
“For goodness sakes can they not express themselves on the holidays and colour their hair … Rules are rules they have to learn to live with rules and regulations just like the rest of us,” wrote one group member.
Another replied “Sorry I believe that there should be rules did it hurt anyone in the past no because they respected rules kids these days are becoming to rude and disrespectful. If they were to get a job and were not allowed to do these things are they never going to get a job because they are to pig headed and stubbon to follow rules.”
Amongst Mietta’s staunchest supporters is her mum, Catherine Manning (who herself runs workshops at secondary schools on self empowerment).
…the school rules are set by school council (combination of parents and school staff) and the school does have an exemption to discriminate based on hair colour.
The school council is reviewing the rules, and many students (and some staff) have expressed concern at the arbitrary hair colour policy and believe it could be more progressive and reflect that it’s 2015. (Let kids express themselves and their creativity if they so choose as there is absolutely ZERO harm in it, in fact, there are self-esteem benefits!).
Mietta has created a petition to offer others the opportunity to support this point of view AS THE SCHOOL COUNCIL IS SEEKING INPUT. If you don’t want to sign it, that’s totally cool, but please don’t assert that she (or anyone else) is disrespectful or ‘breaking rules’ – they’re not, or that they have a bad attitude – they don’t – they’re simply using this opportunity to try to make some positive change in the best interest of students. They have gone about it the right way.
As far as I’m concerned, anyone who still insists that ‘rules are rules’ that have to be blindly obeyed AND THEIR VALIDITY NEVER QUESTIONED, we will have to agree to disagree! Thankfully, throughout history, this type of thinking has been challenged so that society can PROGRESS.
What do you think? Should our young adults be able to express their individuality at school, or should they accept that rules are rules, (regardless of how old said rules may be?)