Sun | Jan 20, 2019

Grooming rules remain! - Principals say discipline in school important for an orderly society

Published:Thursday | August 16, 2018 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin/Gleaner Writer
Grooming is not a one-size-fit-all. We have to dialogue and negotiate, says Dr Elaine Cunningham, head of St Hugh's High School in St Andrew.

Although making it quite clear that discipline will be maintained, Dr Elaine Cunningham, who heads St Hugh's High School in

St Andrew, believes that the issue of grooming must include negotiation and compromise.

Speaking with The Gleaner about expectations and concerns for the upcoming school year, Cunningham said that while deportment is an important facet of the institution, her observations over the years have revealed that hairstyles are often a reflection of deep emotional and social issues that students are experiencing.

"I believe that the adolescent period is a time of expression, and during that period of expression, students experiment with their hairstyles, and they also experiment with how their uniform should look. Therefore, I think grooming is not a one-size-fits-all. We have to dialogue and negotiate," she said.

"The girls wear their African hairstyles. Sometimes it is a little unkempt, and I have to tell them to brush it up to make sure it is not too wild. Some wear the 'Chiney bump' (Jamaican hairstyle). I don't particularly like it, but it is a means of their expression."

Cunningham added: "Sometimes we have to also look at context in terms of what drives this situation. Many times when I have a conversation with them, you recognise that they are making a statement about something. Sometimes it requires getting counselling to assist them with working through various problems they might be going through, and then you will see some changes. We don't punish them first."




Keith Wellington, principal of the St Elizabeth Technical High School, took a more hard-line approach, pointing out that there was a handbook with rules and expectations to which every student must conform.

"The road is there where you can drive 200km, but if everyone drives at that speed, it is not going to be in the interest of all motorists, so there is a speed limit. I sacrifice my need for driving at 180 [km], although I am capable of doing that, and that is how we try to educate our students," he said.

"I am not a communist, but I am critical of those people who believe you can do as you please and still have an orderly society. It is not going to happen. We are all different, and that is why we need rules."

From time to time, the issue of grooming causes intense debate, the most recent being a five-year-old child who was barred from entering the Kensington Primary School in St Catherine because she has dreadlocks.