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Ministry wants schools to review their dress, grooming policies

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

EDUCATION Minister Senator Ruel Reid says a bulletin will be sent out to all schools as a reminder to review their dress and grooming policies, as per the guidelines issued by the ministry at the start of the new academic year

This is in light of complaints that the tunics that girls have been asked to wear by some high schools is excessive and may require direct policy intervention.

Senator Reid stressed in a Jamaica Observer interview that the ministry is now renewing its directive for all schools to observe the guidelines.

The long uniforms instituted at some schools, some as far as to the ankles, have again become the subject of social media jokes with the reopening of school last week. Some people have expressed concerns, labelling the uniforms as “child abuse”, while others have voiced support for the tunics.

“The ministry of education has heard some complaints about the length of tunics of girls attending high schools. The recent groom and dressing guidelines call for schools to in fact review their rules. We equally want to hear the parents' voices, and the students on the matter,” the education minister said.

He advised that institutions are encouraged to urgently review their dress codes and allow all the relevant stakeholders to have a say as to the appropriateness of their uniforms.

He said that while the ministry will be sending out a reminder to schools to review all grooming and dress rules, it reserves the right to issue directive on this specific matter if it becomes necessary.

Speaking at a recent back- to-school press conference at the ministry, Senator Reid stressed that the national policy guidelines are intended to provide a framework for all public schools, within which they are to establish their own student dress code, that best fits their local situation. The minister said that while these should promote good social values, the rules should not violate individual rights or laws.

He said there will have to be a review of some aspects of the regulations to the education act over the next several months, as the legislation does not now specify what the dress and grooming rules are for schools. “It says students are to obey the rules of the school but it hasn't specified exactly what those rules are to be,” he remarked. The minister was speaking against the background of a recent Supreme Court ruling against a local institution, after a parent sought legal intervention when she was told that her child would not be accepted at the school with locks.

He said that outside of exceptions that can be justified, such as the wearing of locks for religious purposes, the schools must work with stakeholders to establish specific rules within the ministry's guidelines.

Asked if the policy guidelines are left too open to interpretation, he said the policy seeks to prevent exactly that from happening. “The stakeholders need to be very specific in terms of what the standard is within law…you can set standards that are within convention or that is acceptable by the general population and importantly the stakeholders”.

— Alphea Saunders