A school in Offaly has suspended three 15-year-olds for having haircuts that are too short. The boys have been banned from taking their junior certificates at the school and are having arrangements made to take the exams elsewhere.
The State Examinations Commission has granted approval for an additional centre to be set up to facilitate the three boys (I wonder how much that will cost).
The school principal refused to allow the boys sit the exams at the school because they had short hair which he said was a breach of the school rules which state that number one haircuts are forbidden.
Shock, horror? Well, actually, no- this sort of petty fascism is commonplace in Irish schools. Many principals and their deputies seem to have some sort of fetishistic obsession with forcing young people of both genders to adhere to pathetic, pointless rules, the like of which will have no relevance in real life (real life being a concept that many schools fail to recognise exists). I don't know if that is the problem in this case, but from the facts available, it doesn't look impressive.
To give you an example of what students may face, let me share a brief list of rules that were enforced at my former school:
- shaved hair forbidden
- long hair forbidden
- hair of different lengths forbidden (e.g. 'bowls')
- dyed or bleached hair forbidden
- students could only wear the school overcoat in and on the way to school (unsurprisingly it was only available through the school).
- on cold days, wooly hats were banned both in and on the way to school if they were not completely plain (e.g. if they had an Adidas three stripes or a Nike swoosh logo, they were forbidden)
- students were not allowed to take off their blazers outside the classroom, even on the hottest of days
- students were not allowed to have any design on their obligatory black or grey socks
- facial hair was forbidden
- students could wear only black shoes, and these were not allowed to go above ankle level
- students in the 7th year common room (many of whom were aged 18) were not allowed to play cards, whether money was involved or not
- students were banned from having a party in their own free time after the school formal (suffice to say, this rule was ignored)
- students were not allowed to leave books in their locker, even if their schoolbag weighed 17 tonnes
Thankfully corporal punishment was banned by the time I arrived in secondary education, so the punishment for these 'crimes' was detention, or at worst, suspension.
My understanding of education is that it should help students get the grades and skills they need to make the most of their abilities, and to equip them for life outside of education. Quite where the enforcement of brainless rules such as those above fits into that ethos, I'm not quite sure. Needless to say, the school didn't provide any education in areas which might have actually been useful in real life, such as cookery etc. Apparently it also has the highest rate of university drop-outs for any school in the north- after all, our careers advice amounted to them handing us prospectuses for Queen's and the University of Ulster.
At least in America, students get suspended for attacking people with blades, rather than just for having their hair cut with them!