Educator urges respect for culture in schools' grooming policy
Head of Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools Linvern Wright argued that there is a lack of compliance for the proposed schools' dress and grooming policy, during a consutlation session at Jamaica College on Tuesday.

More compliance and respect for culture are two major factors that head of the Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools Linvern Wright argued will improve support for a proposed students' dress and grooming policy.

Wright was one of several educators who spoke at a consultation session for the Draft Students' Dress and Grooming Policy in Public Educational Institutions at Jamaica College auditorium on Tuesday.

Referring to the alternative school policy set out in 2018, Wright stressed the guidelines on hair, which states that, subject to exemption or modification for religious reasons, health, or other permitted grounds, hair must be clean and neatly maintained.

"I appreciate this [consultation] and I want to ensure that there is a balance between cultural respect and the need for compliance because God help us for what is happening now, for what is a lack of compliance, the Government is struggling with it," said Wright who is principal of William Knibb Memorial High School.

"We have a state of emergency with indiscipline now and things like hairstyles... but there are many parents who are going to use that because the principle of compliance for many of them is not so clear. But you see if I can have a free for all in one thing — as Bob Marley says, 'Give them an inch, they take a yard, give them a yard, they take a mile', we must work against that," he said.

Additionally, he stressed that compliance is a problem being faced at the national level.

"If we look at Jamaica as it is now, one of the real serious problems that we have is compliance. One of the other problems we have is a lack of respect for many of those things that are sound cultural practices," he said.

In response, Minister of Education and Youth Fayval Williams argued that there should be penalties implemented to deal with poor compliance of the school policy.

"We have to respond to issues as they come up as well. Where we continue to see issues would be those situations in which school students are sent home and that's the situation we have to be adamant about," said Williams.

"We do not send home, we do not lock out the children. So I think the conversation needs to go to what are the sanctions that can be applied if there is non-compliance with the rules. It can't be lock out, it can't be sending children away. I don't think we have had a conversation around what are the incentives to increase compliance," she added.

In May, during a Jamaica Observer/Rise Life Management street reasoning in Parade Gardens, central Kingston, several youngsters gave mixed responses about the decision of some schools to lock out students for haircuts and uniforms which are deemed inappropriate.

One student said hairstyles do not impact a student's learning ability, another suggested that students should be prohibited from entering the school compound if they are not properly groomed, while another said there should be other forms of punishment than a lockout for students who breach the dress code.

Minister of Education and Youth Fayval Williams says sanctions should be developed to reduce non-compliance of the students' dress and grooming policy. (Photos: Joseph Wellington)
Brittny Hutchinson

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