Wed | Oct 21, 2020

Letter of the Day | Standardised policies needed for schools

Published:Tuesday | August 4, 2020 | 12:17 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

Jamaica has been thrown into a quandary that has all of us contemplating if we are really emancipated after the Supreme Court ruling seemingly in favour of Kensington Primary School to uphold the ban against students wearing dreadlocks.

This has once again brought into focus how rife our society is with classism and elitism, with absolutely no protection in place to shield even a five-year-old from the claws of a school administrator. It also points to the fact that there needs to be a centralised system of governance that regulates policies of dress and grooming for students across all public schools. School administrators can change the dress code for students without engaging any formal process or randomly add new rules as they go along or site a new violation they had not previously thought about when establishing the dress code.

Administrators often cite ‘non-compliance’ as the motivating factor to change the dress code for students, ostensibly making rules more rigid to force compliance. This has proven to be ineffective as students will be non-compliant whether the rules are relaxed or rigid. In the case of the five-year-old whose parents were told to cut her locks to gain entry into a government-funded public school, a decision made by a school administrator, is a direct result of the absence of centralised regulations and policies in schools by the Ministry of Education.

Far too many administrators have rules with very little to no guidance provided by their oversight body. Many students are left to suffer.

It cannot be that at Kensington Primary School dreadlocks are banned but not so at Greater Portmore Primary School, both of which are public schools. There have been a few faint voices that have dared to suggest that the parents “just find a new school”, not realising that the problem is deeper than finding a new school that is dreadlocks friendly. At several high schools, female students are forced to wear ankle-length uniforms while others only require calf-length uniforms for girls. At one institution, boys are allowed to sport a faded haircut while at another high school, students are sent home for having a faded hair cut or forced to cut their hair on one level.

The Ministry of Education needs to intervene with a standard policy on dress, grooming, and student behaviour – free of racial and class prejudices – so that the next time a school administrator attempts to apply biases regarding dress and grooming, the policy is what will redirect them.

RHONDA WILLIAMS-COOKE