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Hair today, what will tomorrow bring…

  • Hair web 2 HOME
Jewish schoolboys like Jasen Smaller (Pic: Lilly Harmse) stood up for what they believe to be equal gender rights around the country over the past year, asking for the same hair rules for the guys & girls. Some wanted to be able to wear earrings. Moratoriums were placed on the hair issue while negotiations continued, or were resolved. Now talks seem to be over. King David is seemingly cracking down and insisting the kids cut their hair. Herzlia is expected to go the other route with an announcement forthcoming.
by ANT KATZ | Feb 15, 2017

ABOVE: The title song of the famous ‘60s counter-culture rock opera, Hair, see lyrics below as well as a downloadable MP3 version of the song.


“Give me a head with hair… shoulder length or longer,” so went the title song of the ‘60s-era rock opera Hair. In the 21st century, however, the issue of boys wearing long hair (and other gender equality issues) have been a concern to high schools in particular - and secular Jewish day schools are in the thick of it.

Hair web 3 TallKing David in Johannesburg and Herzlia in Cape Town, have been engaging over the past year seeking solutions as to how they should move forward after both were approached by boys on the issue last year.


RIGHT: Many of the schoolboys - or in some cases their parents - were reluctant to be quoted or photographed for fear of being victimised at their schools. Jason Smaller, a true 'rebel with a cause' wasn't, and neither were his parents (Pic: Lilly Harmse) 

The problem is complex. King David Linksfield (KDL) boys say they have been on a quest for what they call “gender equality” (read: long hair and earrings) while on the Victory Park (KDVP) campus a five-person committee argue that people with intelligent minds analyse rules and don’t follow them blindly.

The hair policy, they say, stops boys from having autonomy. The KDVP committee dissociate themselves from the KDL learners’ position on broader gender equality as they feel it tarnishes what they stand for.

The strategies in the process of being adopted by King David and Herzlia, however, are quite the opposite of one-another.

At KDL some boys wearing long hair or “tuft”, a style which is long on top and short on the sides. This has proven itself particularly successful as some the Linksfield boys are suddenly sprouting kippot - not for religious reasons, but to hide their hair.

The hair issue is by no means confined to King David. Last year a school in Pretoria and two in Cape Town made headlines over this and other gender equality issues. And a Jewish matriculant at a small Catholic school in Johannesburg, (see sidebar), also fought for, and won, the right for boys to wear long hair.

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Takhaar VP Facebook

ABOVE: Four of the King David Victory Park learners who have taken full advantage of the moratorium they were given while discussions were taking place about a future policy regarding boys' hair - PHOTOGRAPH: Facebook





At King David’s Victory Park campus, the situation has been one of “constructive engagement”, says Principal Andrew Baker. As it stands, the current Code of Conduct applies to all 10 schools within the SABJE umbrella.

Hair policy, however, is not included. It is school-specific, says Baker. “Linksfield High and VP High are currently aligning the wording of the school policies with regards to hair,” says Baker.

The current KDVP policy on boys’ hair reads: “Hairstyles must be neat and appropriate. For boys - hair should be cut neatly off the collar and the ears. In the case of boys with thick hair, please can it be thinned out appropriately. Neither long or spiky hair, shaven heads nor the colouring of hair is acceptable.”

The Jewish Report did not get access to the KDL policy, but a parent sent a several-year-old document which said simply that KDL boys’ hair: “should be off the ears and collar”. This, says learner Jasen Smaller who is refusing to cut his hair, “is being complied with”.

Baker, who took up his post in January 2016 had to deal with the issue of boy’s hair in his first few days at the school, having been “approached by some learners on “a very specific issue” - that of boys’ hair.

Thus begun what Baker refers to as a “very positive and amicable process of engagement without any animosity at all”.

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Small school quietly sets the ‘hair’ tone

Hair sidebar Jeremy and lisa

Jeremy Crouch, who matriculated at Sacred Heart College in Observatory last year, took up the cudgels of the right for boys to wear their hair long - and won. Crouch - one of a number of Jewish learners at this Johannesburg Catholic school - said the issue of how long the boys’ hair could be, had been a hot topic at the school for years.


RIGHT: Jeremy with his proud mom Lisa Loeb


The school had previously allowed boys to wear their hair long and neat, but after these rules were abused, the school withdrew this right. Crouch, as deputy head of the student council in 2016, felt it was his right to wear his hair long and was determined that these rules be reconsidered. 

Crouch took this up with school headmistress Heather Blanckensee, who was very supportive of his efforts and, after discussions with the school board and parents, he says “we saw it as not necessarily opening the floodgates; we wanted to rather take it step by step. “I have very curly hair”, said Crouch. “And I would go to school with my hair tied tightly and lots and lots of clips.“Oftentimes the question of piercings (also) came up so we chose to only make it about hair,” says Jeremy.

In this way, the class of 2016 was paving the way for the naysayers to see it wasn’t so bad, and allowing space for future councils to deal with more gender issues, he says.The policy is now that both girls and boys can now wear their hair any length as long as it is in accordance with the school’s former girls’ rules.

At the school’s end of year prizegiving, Crouch was given a once-off  Special Award “for the role he played in challenging the status quo, and making the way for change which enhanced the reputation of the school,” according to his mother. The wording engraved on the award are: “We will always remember you for your strong leadership and vision, helping others to find their voice, and serving them with humility.”



CLICK TO LISTEN TO OR DOWLOAD THE SONG HAIR

What is the legal position? Read SLIPPERY SLOPE: RIGHTS OF SCHOOLS VS. PUPILS also published on JR Online today.


takhaar petition


LEFT: An online petition called "Update King David's school rules to be gender neutral" and started by an anonymous student has drawn many signatures


This would most likely been seen as an act of respect and good faith by the learners and set the tone for the constructive nature of the year-long engagement that ensued.

“We are heading towards the final phase of the process,” Baker told Jewish Report.

KDL Principal Lorraine Srage, told Jewish Report this week that there was no new hair policy, only a clarification that they were legally and constitutionally able to enforce the existing code of conduct as it relates to boys’ hair.

“I have cut the sides of my hair shorter and am careful to not grow it beyond what can fit neatly under my Kippa,” says Jasen Smaller of KDL, who is one of many boys at the school, he says, who use the same trick to meet the school requirements on the one hand, but are able to adopt their individuality once out of school uniform.

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Hair 123


ABOVE: It’s as easy as one… two… three - King David Linksfield matric pupil Jasen Smaller shows how he hides his hair under a kippah - PHOTOGRAPH: SHIRA JACOBS

 

The schools had been challenged by boys regarding the hair policy last year, Srage explains. “We listened, we debated, we took counsel, and a decision was made.”

Srage says that “a cultural issue is fundamentally different” and that if any pupil’s requirement to act outside of the code of conduct “is underpinned by a religious or cultural requirement,” such as a boy not shaving due to a halachic commitment, the school would make an exception in these cases.

 



A different kettle of fish in Cape Town

Herzlia Schools in Cape Town are also involved in a similar process but both their approach, and the likely impending outcome, are completely different to that of King David Schools.

Marc Falconer, principal of Cape Town’s Herzlia High School (he was previously principal at KDL), rubbishes the concept of trying to enforce “colonial-type rules and regulations” on high schoolers in a manner which “would not have been out of place at the time of WWI”.

Herzlia BagsFalconer believes the status quo is “anachronistic” and that it is just a matter of time before all schools will have to review their policies “in this era of decolonisation and the modern education environment”.

Herzlia is presently looking at a proposal of “simple equality” between boys’ and girls’ hair regulations.

While Falconer agrees that “hair is the burning issue”, he believes that a far larger process of modernisation is required. 

Herzlia’s Student Leader Council sent out a survey asking learners to air their views on allowing long hair for boys. An incredible 87 per cent responded, he says, and 85 per cent of those were in favour.

KDVP learners also conducted a poll and had over 74 per cent in favour of longer hair.

Herzlia’s Uniform Committee members, too, are on the cusp of finalising a new hair code. The principal has included representatives from the Student Leader Council to be “part of the decision-making process” and he believes the experiment has proven a huge success.

The learners have been able to “appreciate the time taken in consulting the various Herzlia stakeholders”, Falconer explains.

And, he says, "once a new policy is in place it will be up to the student leadership" to understand and uphold “their concomitant responsibility and maintain discipline” within the new rules and regulations.

Herzlia is not at the forefront of this issue in Cape Town, says the principal. “Some liberal schools such as Westerford and Camps Bay have already implemented gender neutral policies.”

Herzlia favours “peer leadership” policies, says Falconer. “We want them to take ownership.”

Back in Johannesburg: Last week KDL head of discipline, Tom Johnson, told some of the boys concerned that they had to cut their hair on the same day.

Jewish Report will keep our readers updated on this issue as the Jewish day schools publish their new policies.

  • The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical is a rock musical with a book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni and music by Galt MacDermot. A product of the hippie counterculture and sexual revolution of the late 1960s, several of its songs became anthems of the anti-Vietnam War peace movement. The musical's profanity, its depiction of the use of illegal drugs, its treatment of sexuality, its irreverence for the American flag, and its nude scene caused much comment and controversy at the time. The musical broke new ground in musical theatre by defining the genre of "rock musical", using a racially integrated cast, and inviting the audience onstage for a "Be-In" finale.



Lyrics to the song 'Hair' from the Broadway hit

She asks me why, I'm just a hairy guy

hair long 1I'm hairy noon and night, hair that's a fright

I'm hairy high and low, don't ask me why, don't know

It's not for lack of bread, like the grateful Dead, darlin'

 

Give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair

Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen

Give me down to there, hair, shoulder length or longer

Here baby, there, momma, everywhere, daddy, daddy

 

Hair, flow it, show it

Long as God can grow, my hair

 

Let it fly in the breeze and get caught in the trees

Give a home to the fleas, in my hair

A home for fleas, a hive for the buzzing bees

A nest for birds, there ain't no words

For the beauty, splendor, the wonder of my hair

 

Flow it, show it

Long as God can grow, my hair

 

Hair longI want long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty

Oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen

Knotted, polka dotted, twisted, beaded, braided

Powered, flowered and confettied

Bangled, tangled, spangled and spahettied

 

Oh say, can you see my eyes if you can

Then my hair's too short

Down with here, down to there

Down till there, down to where it's stuck by itself

 

They'll be ga-ga at the go-go, when they see me in my toga

My toga made of blond, brilliantined, biblical hair

My hair like Jesus wore it, Hallelujah I adore it

Hallelujah Mary loved her son, why don't my mother love me?

 

Hair, flow it, show it

Long as God can grow

My hair, flow it, show it

Long as God can grow

My hair, flow it, show it

Long as God can grow

My hair

4 Comments

  1. 4 Anonymous 16 Feb
    Jason has apparently been expelled by KDL- heard around school as a rumor, not sure if true. 
  2. 3 Greg 17 Feb
    It is very simple. Under the Constitution of South Africa, there can be no gender discrimination. KD and H are both co-ed schools and this is their problem. You can only enforce hair rules per gender if it is a single gender school. Look at The Grove and Westerford High in Cape Town. KD and H will lose in court and only tarnish the Jewish Community more if they fight a fight that they cannot win. 
  3. 2 Adam 20 Feb
    He hasn't been expelled. Just told to go home until he has his hair cut
  4. 1 Yosef Kalinski 20 Feb
    At my yeshiva in Brazil we encouraged to grow hair long

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