Specialist feature story 

Punishment for pupils with extreme hair

Schools are being criticised for disciplining pupils who have unique hairstyles

 

A 15-year-old schoolboy raised £850 for Cancer Research UK by shaving all of his hair off.

Taylor Jones, from Cornwall, made all of his friends and family extremely proud of him for wanting to raise money for the charity.

Then when he turned up to his school, Launceston College, the next week he was treated as if he had done something awful. He was pulled out from class and separated from his friends because he was bald.

The boy was told he had an “extreme” haircut, which was a distraction for the other pupils and that he has to learn in isolation.

Taylor Jones’ father, Nick Jones, called the schools actions “dictatorship”. He told Cornwall Live Taylor had been growing his hair for a while and it had got “very unruly” and most people said his previous hairstyle was more extreme compared to how it is now.

Several people have commented on the Independent’s story online saying Taylor Jones’ hair isn’t extreme because some children cannot help being bald due to having alopecia and cancer treatments.

In a statement published in the Independent, Launceston College’s principle, Bryan Maywood, said: “Taylor will be provided with individual specialist tuition from experienced qualified teachers for the four days he will not be in lessons with his peers. After this period his hair will no longer be considered an extreme hairstyle; he will return to normal lessons.”

Across the UK, numerous reports have been published about school pupils being placed in isolation and being suspended because of their hair over the last few years. Schools have deemed pupils hair as ‘extreme’ for simply being too short or too long in many cases. Pupils who have dyed their hair unnatural colours have also been disciplined due to breaching school rules. When schoolchildren are confronted for breaching dress codes, parents often try to fight back and say it’s appalling that their hair has affected their education.

Former teaching assistant, from Winifred Holtby Academy, Sarah Wilkinson says she has seen school children get in trouble for changing their hair for charities as well.

She remembers a time when she was working at the secondary school in Hull and a schoolgirl was sent home for dying her hair red for charity. The school gave the student money to go and purchase two boxes of hair dye, after her parents tried to protest and said they couldn’t afford to change her hair back. She thinks it “wasn’t fair” that the student was told to change it.

Miss Wilkinson questions: “How does the colour of your hair make any difference to how you are going to work?”

The teaching assistant thinks the colour of pupil’s hair should not have an impact on their education. She believes placing pupils out of classrooms affects their learning because they have no one there to help them and explain any work they are given.

Miss Wilkinson says disciplining pupils in this way achieves nothing, other than encouraging them to break the rules to get out of going to classes.

As well as dying hair for charity, schoolchildren have also been known to change their hair to boost their self-esteem.

Last month a schoolgirl in Harlow, dyed her hair to give herself more confidence after being bullied for the past two years and feeling suicidal.

Madison Holman, who attends Channel 4’s Educating Essex school Passmores Academy, revealed to The Sun that she was forced to learn out of class after dying her hair a subtle dark purple colour.

Her mum said the school went “overboard with the punishment” because you could hardly see the colour. She also said it was a shame they were being “so petty” about it because she loved her new haircut and noticed a positive change in her daughters confidence.

Vic Goddard, principal at Passmores Academy, told the Sun: “Passmores Academy has very clear rules and expectations regarding uniform that have been in place for many years.

“We do not apologise for having high expectations of our young people and of the partnership we expect of having with parents/carers.”

Ashely Sparke, 15, from Hull has also faced issues with his school because of his haircuts. The schoolboy, who goes to Hull Trinity House Academy has been suspended and placed in isolation on numerous occasions.

His mum, Emma Sparke, 35, says her child has been punished for having simple hairstyles and it is “ridiculous”. She thinks schools shouldn’t penalise children for their appearance as it’s “a form of discrimination”.

Miss Sparke remembers a time when her son was sent home after getting his hair permed. He was told he had to change it back to how it was and he wasn’t allowed back onto the school premises until his hair was natural, even though his mum Miss Sparke has natural curly hair.

She presses: “I don’t believe the school should get to say how the children have their hairstyles, it’s taking away their identities and freedom. It should be down to the child’s parents if they can or cannot have their hair a certain way.”

The 15 year old was also once punished for a week for attending school with his hair long on the top of his head and shaved on the sides. The sailor boy’s school told Miss Sparke pupils should have their hair one length, so that no one looks out of place.

According to Miss Sparke, her son felt lonely in the week he was separated from his peers. She explains Ashley begged to stay at home instead of going to school because he had no one to speak to.

Despite Miss Sparke’s complaints, she says she understands that schools are strict with hair because they can be distracting in lessons if they are bright and have patterns in them.

Hull Trinity House Academy have been contacted about the matter and we are still waiting for them to comment.

The Northern Ireland Children’s Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma said the policy of isolating school pupils because of their hair is “wrong”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show, Ms Yiasouma claimed guidance from the department to the schools is sometimes “too woolly”.

She said: “They (children) have a right to express themselves. Unfortunately our education does not allow them that right.”

Due to these issues schoolchildren have been facing, it is important to remember to seek permission before your child drastically changes their hairstyle. Even if the makeover is for charity, it is highly likely it will cause trouble.

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