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Jaevion Nelson: Faded haircuts, mohawks and school rules

Published:Thursday | March 3, 2016 | 3:00 AM

Nowadays, schools seem to be trying to outdo each other with the ridiculous 'rules' they have implemented. What sense does a code of conduct about boys having a faded haircut or mohawk make? How does one ensure that students abide by these ludicrous rules? It is unfathomable that so many schools continue to invest so much of their efforts policing the types of shoes, length of tunics and skirts, and hairdos of their students than they have invested in actually ensuring their students are learning and performing well.

I am aware that there are regulations, codes of conduct and rules everywhere you go which you are expected to abide by. And I know that every student is expected to adhere to the rules set out by their respective educational institutions. I strongly encourage respect for these rules, but what sense does it make to encourage blind compliance to every rule because someone in authority decided it makes sense? What sense does it make to send students home for having a fade or a mohawk, especially when they have exams while we allow students of other ethnicity more leeway to express their individuality in their hairstyles.

Every so often, this issue comes up - especially at the start of the school year - and we flare up then move on as if we have come to a resolution.

I remember, while in upper sixth form at Clarendon College during CAPE, one of my classmates decided to wear braids to school for the last couple of exams. I imagine she thought no one would recognise this. We were most surprised that one of our teachers thought it prudent to have her remove the braids just as we were about to start the exam. I recall as well hearing my mother complain about how teachers wanted to discipline my sister for wearing a black sneakers to school and not a more traditional female school shoes.

 

ABUSE OF POWER

The practice of sanctioning students is ranked with abuse of power, and someone needs to do something about it! I reckon this matter of disciplining students willy-nilly is of great import, and the Ministry of Education ought to address this urgently.

It is so very funny how adults who break rules every so often love to demand that children and youth follow rules blindly. We can't be teaching children to follow rules because they are simply that - rules. It's the same thinking that forces our children to blindly follow authority. If I were a parent, I would never send my child to a school that encourages them to blindly follow rules and authority and discourage their agency. I suppose the rule that Rastafarians must wear a tam also makes sense because it is a rule, and if they don't then it is the first step to them becoming hardened criminals. This is the kind of thinking we engender, as a nation, why as adults we don't challenge authority even when it's blatant that they are violating our rights.

I think it would be prudent if we give consideration to the types of rules that many students typically ignore or 'break' and ask ourselves some pertinent questions. Why are students ignoring the 'rules'? Is there anything that is wrong with that school rule? How does it affect student learning and encouraging indiscipline among our students? Why do I support adherence to this rule but don't support others being enforced?

It's really frightening to think that so many of us endorse schools turning away girls for having their uniform three inches below their knees, for bleaching their skin, and for styling their hair in particular ways, among others. Is it not time for us to encourage alternative forms of discipline that are less draconian and cause less disruption in students' learning?

We need to do something about the state of affairs in our schools. I doubt sending home students will change anything. I encourage the National Secondary Students' Council to urge the Ministry of Education to address the issues relating to dress code and to review and enforce standards relating to how sanctions are handed down to students by educators and school administrators. I am also challenging parents to utilise the Parents-Teacher Association as a forum to raise concerns about some of these rules and regulations in our school.

- Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.