Attorney’s son barred from school because of haircut

CASTRIES, St Lucia (CMC — The St Lucia Government says it remains committed to reviewing the present positions regarding issues of grooming in schools on the island after the 13-year-old son of a lawyer was prevented from attending classes on the first day of the new school term on Monday.

“The Ministry of Education, Sustainable Development, Innovation, Science, Technology and Vocational Training is aware of situations at various schools which have sparked public discussion, as it relates to issues of grooming in schools on the island,” the ministry said in a statement.

It said it wanted to assure the general public “that it remains committed to reviewing the present positions with a view to addressing the current issues from a holistic standpoint.

“… The ministry has committed to ensuring that an evaluation of this nature includes the thorough participation of all relevant stakeholders, in determining the best way forward,” the ministry said.

In a statement on his Facebook page, attorney Al C Elliot Sr said one of his twin sons was denied entry “into his classroom on the first day of school, because his hair does not conform to the rules of the school”.

He said one of the boys had decided to wear his hair grown, while the other has a flatter haircut.

“I am so disappointed in my alma mater. I am disappointed that this is a conversation to be had in 2022,” Elliot wrote, recalling that when he attended the school that has produced the island’s two Nobel Prize winners, “my principal then, the revered Mr Mondesir, wore his hair like my son”.

“In fact, so subjective are our standards, that Mr Mondesir’s iconic (at the time old-fashioned) afro hairstyle was seen as appropriate for a gentleman, certainly more appropriate than the skinhead haircuts that guys my age wanted, made popular then by Michael Jordan,” said the attorney, who attended the school between 1991 and 97.

“The point is that haircuts and hairstyles are subjective, fluid and ultimately a matter of opinion. So whose opinion should matter? Why should someone’s subjective opinion matter? What if that opinion changes tomorrow? And where does any of this fall in relation to the United Nations Convention On The Rights Of The Child? That convention guarantees every child the right to an education, but that right to an education can be taken away because a school has determined that a child’s hair is over one inch long?”

Elliot said he has always taught his sons to act within reason.

“Question the choices you make. Accept the errors you make and learn from them. But do not simply act without reasoning. How in good conscience do I tell my son to cut his hair for conformity? Is it good enough reasoning that there is a rule?

“The educators in St Lucia should be familiar with the law that we had which mandated that a female teacher who gave birth to a child while out of wedlock, could no longer continue in the teaching service. This wasn’t just some rule; this was the law of the land! Sometime in the 80s it was determined that that was a bad law. It was unconstitutional to say the least,” he wrote.

“As far as I am concerned, a 13-year-old is being denied an education which he has a right to, and the school needs to realise that they are subjected to the Ministry of Education; they are not private institutions and also subject to the authority of the courts, so at the end of the day I don’t think the principal or myself can decide on something that is a public affair, so the courts have a right to decide on it,” Elliot said.

The principal of the school, Don Howell, has made no public announcement on the issue.

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