General News

16 February, 2023

School cuts it fine with hair policy

A local private school has defended its right to dictate the hairstyles of its students, even going so far as to send letters to hairdressers to advise what haircuts are appropriate.

By Ellie Fink


The letter was sent out to hairdressers by Mareeba’s St Stephen’s Catholic College in early January, sparking backlash from local business owners and students.

“St Stephen’s Catholic College is a conservative school and as such, haircuts should be conservative in nature,” the letter stated.

The letter addressed mainly male haircuts, allowing short back and sides but disapproving of mullets, mohawks, shaved heads shorter than a number two, faded sides and long hair on top.

In addition to sending out the letter, students who did not conform with the hair regulations were named at the first whole-school assembly of the year, and told to stay back after the parade was finished so they could be instructed about how to wear their hair, missing out on valuable lesson time.

One of the students, who wants to remain anonymous, told The Express that being named in front of the whole school made him feel “shamed” and “embarrassed”.

He said his naturally curly hair was deemed “too long” just because it touched the collar of his shirt, and had subsequently had it cut to conform to the standards.

“I liked my hair because it made me feel like myself and I was just starting to learn how to look after my curls,” he said.

“I had to cut it. Now, it’s not what I really wanted but it will have to do.”

Many hairdressers who received the letter described it as tasteless, including owner of Dimbulah Cutz-N-Curls Maria Pinese who felt “completely dumbfounded”.

“I was quite shocked when I saw the letter – I wasn’t expecting it at all because in the whole 30 years I have owned my own salon, I have never received a letter stating the school’s policy on hairstyles,” she said.

“At first I questioned myself, ‘why would I be receiving the letter?’, I feel like it shouldn’t have been addressed to me, it should be addressed to parents and then I thought maybe the school has lost control over their students and this was their way of bringing them back in.”

While she understood why the hair rules were in place, she thought the school had stepped over the line because it was a “business telling another business what their rules are”.

Altitude Hair in Mareeba commented on Facebook that they failed to “see the relevance between intelligence and the length of someone’s hair”.

“I hope that the school you all pay so much for your children to attend is capable of giving them an education no matter whether they look like - clones or not,” she said.

“I attended school nearly 60 years ago and boys had long hair, it’s 2023 or hasn’t anyone noticed?”

Acting principal Simon Vaughan has defended his decision to send the letter out and the school naming students at assembly, saying he had no intention to offend hairdressers.

He said every parent had received a duplicate of the letter and all students were made aware of the school’s policy when the letter was sent out.

“This letter was a way in which we could inform hairdressers of what our expectations are,” he said.

“It was not a case of telling hairdressers what they can and cannot do, it was my way of being proactive as a principal and informing them of our high expectations.

“If we didn’t value high expectations, we would not be getting the results that we would be getting and providing the opportunities that we do.”

Mr Vaughan said he would never intend to make a student feel ashamed and the college believed in “preserving the dignity of students”.

He said while he was aware that young people used hairstyles to express individuality, the college could offer other ways for students to do so.

Mr Vaughan said there may be room for change in the grooming and uniform expectations in the future and he was open to those conversations when the time comes, but for now, he is remaining steadfast in retaining the current expectations.


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