Control of Students' Appearance

School boards of trustees have the right to make bylaws governing the appearance and dress of students. However, any bylaws must be reasonable. In determining the validity of bylaws the Court will start with the presumption that the board acted within its power. In holding that a board could make provisions regarding the length of boys' hair, the Court of Appeal noted that there was no evidence that such a provision was not necessary or desirable in the interests of the control and management of the school.

There has been no Court decision on the validity of school uniforms, dress code (requiring clothes of a certain style or colour be worn, or prohibiting a specified type of clothing), or appearance requirements since the enactment of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. Under that law everyone has the right to freedom of expression subject to any reasonable limits prescribed by law that can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Every person, regardless of age, now has a statutory right to freedom of expression. It is therefore debatable whether or not schools still have the right to insist on students wearing uniforms.