Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Head-shave teenager back in class

Rhys Johnson, 14, was ordered to be taught in isolation after getting his head shaved at a charity event

A mass walkout by pupils in support of a schoolboy banned from class for having his head shaved for charity has prompted school bosses to do a U-turn.

Rhys Johnson, 14, was ordered to be taught in isolation for flouting the school uniform code and getting his head shaved at a Macmillan cancer charity event.

The teenager, from Milford Haven, west Wales, raised £700 with a friend last weekend when he took part in the charity's UK-wide annual coffee morning.

The Milford Haven School pupil wanted to raise cash for cancer research after his aunt was diagnosed with the potentially fatal disease.

But he went ahead with the charity event despite being warned in advance by the school not to get his head shaved.

As a result he was removed from class when he showed up at school last Monday without a hair on his head and was subsequently taught in isolation.

A walkout by up to 250 school pupils in protest at his continued separation from the rest of the school appears to have helped force a rethink.

Lucy O'Neill, the teenager's mother, said her son would be allowed back in to classes as normal from next Monday.

"I'm very proud of Rhys and I've been completely overwhelmed by the support from his friends, fellow students and parents," she told the Western Telegraph of Haverfordwest.

"I'm happy that they achieved what they wanted through the protest and it proved that they weren't prepared to back down. Most of the students have gone back into school now and we're trying to get the others to go back in."

She said that the decision regarding her son was taken after she had met senior teachers at the school.

On Monday she will meet with headteacher Rod Francis together with her son, who wants an apology from the school for the way he has been treated.

Mrs O'Neill has highlighted the different way in which her son's friend, Tesni, was treated for taking part in the charity event last Saturday.

The schoolgirl, who attends Tasker Milward VC School in Haverfordwest, was reportedly praised for her money-raising efforts for the cancer charity.

Pembrokeshire County Council said previously that policy differs from school to school regarding a uniform code, which is set by a governing body.

A council spokesman confirmed that a walkout by pupils at Milford Haven School in protest at the treatment of Rhys Johnson had taken place.

A spokesman for Milford Haven School said: "The pupil in question and his mother were informed of the consequences of breaking the uniform and appearance rules prior to doing so.

"When the rules were broken, an appropriate sanction was enforced, namely supervised study.

"This was a short-term measure which was clearly communicated and a return to the pupil's normal timetable would have been effective once he complied with the school's ruling.

"At Milford Haven School we believe it is important to maintain high standards in every aspect of school life, including uniform and appearance.

"The reason for such policies is that there is a clear link between maintaining high standards in school behaviour and academic achievement.

"And, to be fair to all our pupils, these rules must be consistently applied.

"Pupils and parents are frequently reminded of this and the vast majority are fully supportive.

"This issue has not arisen as a result of raising funds. It has arisen because of a clear breach of school rules.

"Pupils at Milford Haven School are widely praised for the work they do together in raising funds for many charities. However, this work is carried out within the boundaries of the school rules.

"While this morning's demonstration by some pupils was disappointing and ill-advised, lessons for the vast majority of pupils continued as normal."

A spokesman for Pembrokeshire County Council said: "We are confident that the vast majority of parents will support the school in its efforts to raise academic standards and implement school rules."

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