Don’t paint everyone with the same brush.
Or is it don't brush everyone with the same comb?
Whatever, you get the picture.
This is the moral of the story in today's hair-raising issue.
The debate around schoolkids, their hair and schools' code of conduct has raged for years now.
It may seem like splitting hairs, much a hairdo about nothing, but it isn't.
Each story presents a different problem, for which there is no cut-and-dried solution.
This month, there have been at least two cases of parents and pupils who have had blow-outs with principals.
In Delft, a five-year-old Rastafarian boy with dreadlocks was taken out of his school, which had demanded “proof” of his religion.
The child's mother said he felt humiliated: “The school is discriminating against my child. They even asked us to prove his Rastafarianism; I mean they don’t ask children to prove they are Muslim or Christian.”
She has a point. The parents decided to remove the boy as a matter of principle.
Then this week another family fell foul of the school rules.
A Bonteheuwel father said his five-year-old son was barred from school until he chops his ponytail off.
The dad argued that the school is stuck in the past; his Grade R son’s hair is “neat and clean” and doesn't affect his learning ability.
Even though the principal maintains the parents were made aware of the school's policy months prior, the dad feels “people are just jealous of my child’s hair”.
The kid's mom is a hairdresser, just by the way.
You may recall previous hair stories that made headlines in recent years.
There was the big Sans Souci Girls High School protest of 2016, where pupils called out the teachers for racism.
The girls claimed they were told not to have afros, and were punished for speaking their home languages.
Then in 2017, a different case but just as controversial, a Muslim schoolgirl's headscarf was ripped off her head at a Milnerton school.
The parents had sought permission for the 13-year-old to wear a doekie during Ramadaan.
But the principal declined, explaining that his “research” on the internet found that it wasn’t required for girls to wear hijab during Ramadaan.
Headscarves were also not in line with the school's dress-code policy.
Now, there's a lot to be said for schools’ codes of conduct. They're there to maintain order and discipline.
Heaven knows our laaities need it in their lives.
Chances are a child who learns to respect the rules will grow up to be a law-abiding adult one day.
That said, school regulations are not cast in stone like Moses' Ten Commandments.
They certainly don't override the highest law in the land.
And any rule book needs to be consistent with the Constitution of South Africa, its values and diversity.
The Western Cape Education Department has stated time and again: Schools may decide on dress codes and hairstyles. The WCED cannot dictate policies as this would go against the SA Schools Act.
However, schools should review their codes of conduct periodically to ensure that they achieve their purpose in line with the Constitution.
And what does the little book say? No discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, age, disability, religion, culture and language.
Let's see if the cases above pass the Constitutional test:
Rastafarian hair? Check
African hair? Check
Muslim headscarf? Check
Sorry parents, but the Constitution doesn’t defend your “right to fashion”.
If you are not happy with the rules, find a private school that will accommodate your taste.
And good luck with that. Remember, many kids are missing out on classes because they haven’t been placed at schools yet.