Liliana Rio is the Head Girl at Tamatea High School and has been a champion for her tungāne (brothers) in her role as Board of Trustees student representative. Like many schools around the country Tamatea High School had a rule that boys needed to be clean shaven. The boys questioned the rule and Liliana took their concerns to the Board of Trustees.
Liliana put the case that the boys should be able to have tidy facial hair as an expression of their individuality and because facial hair has no impact on learning. Many other students supported this position and the Board decided to canvas the opinions of school staff, whānau and the Whānau Whānui (Alumni).
Some opposed facial hair because students need to be clean shaven for their jobs. The Board considered this and decided that apart from some food preparation jobs where beard nets are required, there aren’t many workplaces that actually require people to be clean shaven. Doctors, Lawyers, Teachers, Police and Tradies can all wear beards.
There was a concern that students would look untidy and be unhygienic. Some thought that clean shaven looks more professional and shows discipline and self-respect. There were a few staff who were worried that our community would look down on the school if our students were not clean shaven.
Many in our community were supportive of a change – recognising that students should be able to make decisions about their own bodies. Religious and cultural reasons for having facial hair were raised as good reasons for changing the rule. We have no rule for hair colour or piercings and there are a handful of students who have dyed their hair and more than usual piercings, but the vast majority have not changed their appearance at all. Having tidy facial hair was considered to be in keeping with the approach for hair and piercings.
At the end of the day the Board considered the consultation input and decided that the clean-shaven rule was outdated. Therefore, trimmed and tidy facial hair will be permitted at the High School from now on. Principal, Robin Fabish, said he was very happy that Head Girl, Liliana, had led the kaupapa on behalf of the students and the Board had consulted with the community to make a good decision that supports the rights of students to express themselves. He added that he thinks it is good for schools to question the relevance of historical educational ideas.