Over 2,500 people have signed a petition set up by a Derry teenager protesting against a school policy that pupils must be clean shaven.
Carrick McClean, a 17-year-old student at St. Columb’s College, set up the petition after he was not allowed to attend classes because he refused to shave.
Carrick told the ‘Journal’ he believes the school policy is ‘limiting me in my potential to be myself’ and also potentially ‘limiting my achievement academically’.
“As a young adult I work, drive and pay tax and national insurance. But whenever I enter the school I am treated like a child , being forced to be clean shaven.”
He believes giving pupils the freedom to have facial hair, if they choose to, ‘we would be much happier in our learning environment’.
Carrick said teachers have been raising facial hair with him for the last couple of years and although he was always opposed to the policy he never did anything to try to change it.
“In December, I was approached by a teacher and given the option to either shave in school or go home and shave. When I said I didn’t want to shave anymore, I was sent to the study. I put up a post on social media expressing my opinion and it just totally blew up.
“I got lots of support and that inspired me to do more, so I started the petition.”
Carrick also wrote letters to the Principal, Vice Principal, senior teachers and the Board of Governors of St Columb’s College.
The teen, who a member of the college’s hurling team, said he ‘hated’ seeing a lot of the negative comments about his school following his post on social media.
“I am ultimately proud to be a part of the College and I would hate to see the school ridiculed because of my post. However, I don’t think I would have got so far if it wasn’t for social media.”
Carrick said this was an issue of equality but also shone a light on understanding why people may grow beards.
“There is no rule for teachers or other male members of staff to be clean shaven and I don’t understand why there is a rule for students.
“Personally, I like how a beard looks and don’t like being clean shaven. I also started reading up on reasons why people grow a beard and for young people who may have acne or scarring on their face it may be to boost their self-confidence or for their mental health.”
Carrick said he never expected his petition to receive so much attention and intends to keep it running until the issue is resolved.
“I am in upper sixth now and I am nearing the end of my time in the College. This isn’t just for me, it is for the pupils coming behind me who should have the choice to have a beard if they want one.”
A spokesperson for St Columb’s College said: “The issue that has been raised by the pupil in question will be considered first by our student council. Whilst that process is in progress the school will be making no comment.”