Splitting hairs

Charma Wilson, Retreat

My son was told to cut his hair by the principal of Zwaanswyk High, Shandre Otto.

He chose to exercise his rights as the code of conduct was recently amended to be more lenient to satisfy the different cultures and diversity of pupils.

The code of conduct reads, “Boys’ hair must be short and neat, no hair in the face and no sideburns.”

His hair is short, neat, no sideburns and no hair in his face. But since he didn’t cut his hair, the principal proceeded to remove my son from his class and put him in front of the girls’ toilet until his hair was shorter.

I then pleaded with the principal to allow him back into class as he is within the boundaries of the code of conduct and if there is any uncertainty then she must follow the procedure to resolve the matter.

I said I was utterly disgusted that Ms Otto chose to humiliate my son in this manner. My son had to ask for work from teachers passing by.

I then phoned the Western Cape Education Department and explained to a Mr Filander what had happened, emphasising that my son’s rights were being violated and that he was being bullied by the principal, as she had even made reference to his personal circumstances while shouting at him.

My son was extremely humiliated and all this just before his June exams. I also explained that my son, who is in matric, is in the top 10 at ZWHS and a brilliant student.

I am very unhappy that my son is being treated like a common criminal. Mr Filander’s final statement to me was, “Your son is a minor and rules are rules”.

Disgusted at his response, I sought help from the governing body. It is supposed to be neutral, but it was completely biased and supported the principal.

I was at a loss for words as no one was helping my son. It’s hard enough raising children on the Cape Flats, but do we first wait for our children to rebel, perhaps they decide not to attend school or indulge in drugs or perhaps suicide? Our children face so many challenges, and we never know when they hit breaking point.

How is it fair for my son to go through all this humiliation and to be disrespected in front of pupils and teachers? And all this because of his hair? Where is the justice for my son?

* Shandre Otto, principal of Zwaanswyk High School, responds:

It must be noted that Ms Wilson’s response is prejudiced in that her fundamental unhappiness is that the school’s code of conduct is being upheld while the way in which her son presents himself is a direct contravention thereof.