Mum upset over school haircut for son

IT WAS the first day of school on Tuesday, and she was shocked when her son SMSed to say he was getting his hair cut.

By the time she rushed to the school, there were uneven patches on his head, and his hair looked as if it had been unprofessionally cut.

The 43-year-old woman, who gave her name only as Madam Yeo, was upset that her 14-year-old son was subjected to a drastic hair cut by a staff member at Springfield Secondary.

So upset, in fact, that she called in the police and later complained to the Ministry of Education (MOE).

She said her son, a Secondary 2 student, went for a haircut four days before school reopened.

Madam Yeo, a general manager, estimated that at school, about 7cm of his hair was cut off. It had been styled to the side.

She told The New Paper: "Who gave the teacher the authority to do such damage?

Shouldn't the school work with the parents and not act unilaterally like this?"

Madam Yeo, who requested that her son not be named, was further angered when she reached the school that day and saw him bent over a table writing out a "statement".

She said the staff member, an allied educator, made her son write different versions of what had happened. It took two hours until he was satisfied.

When TNP asked to see the statement, Madam Yeo said she had torn it in anger.

She said: "The principal said it was a mere trim and that the teacher was doing his duty.

We called the police but they said this matter should be addressed by the MOE."

The mother, who subsequently complained to MOE, said: "If it was just a symbolic snip, a bit of hair cut off as a warning, I would have been fine (with it)."

Her son admitted this was not the first time the school had an issue with his hair being too long.

He said: "It was around the middle of last year. The teacher cut off about 1cm of hair as a warning.

"It was fine after that - I didn't have to do anything more. My parents didn't even notice it."

Madam Yeo said: "This time, the teacher really went too far."

She took her son to the hair salon to get his hair fixed after the incident.

Too traumatised

Her son said he was too traumatised to go to school the next day.

Madam Yeo said: "His asthma acted up, he had to use his inhaler. I keep seeing him touch his head and it's really painful for me as his parent."

She said the MOE responded through the cluster superintendent in charge of Springfield, who assured her that the incident would not be repeated.

The superintendent arranged for a meeting yesterday but Madam Yeo declined to elaborate on the outcome as she had promised MOE not to do so.

Springfield's principal, Mrs Jenny Ng, told TNP that before the December holidays last year, students were reminded of a "grooming check" when school reopens.

She said the information is also on the school's website and guidelines on appropriate haircuts are provided in the school handbook issued to all students.

The handbook, which Madam Yeo showed us, states: "Boys must keep their hair short. Fanciful and unkempt hair styles are not allowed".

Mrs Ng said that grooming checks are first done by the form teachers in their classrooms. Students who were deemed to have long hair or improper hairstyles would be sent for a second check by another team of school staff.

"The trim is meant as a guide for the student to get a proper haircut that day," she said. She added that all school staff members are responsible for the discipline of students and that the school will continue to engage Madam Yeo.

When asked to comment on the case, a spokesman for MOE said: "Good discipline in schools is important as it facilitates teaching and learning. Every member of the school has a role to play in ensuring good discipline in school."

The statement added that MOE provides schools with a set of guidelines in managing school discipline and schools may have their own school rules depending on their needs.

Madam Yeo said her son went back to school on Thursday.

She said: "I had to assure him that everything will be okay."

Two secondary school principals said that every school has its own policy on disciplining students with hair issues, depending on the situation.

Said one principal, who has 20 years of education experience: "As far as possible, we inform the parents and the student goes to get his hair cut or dyed black.

"They can come back to school and resume classes after that."

She said students must have acceptable hairstyles because it's basic behaviour.

"But different schools have different ways of managing such cases because they face different circumstances," she added.

This article was first published in The New Paper.