PORT OF SPAIN – A brown haired girl says she was booted out of school on Tuesday by officials who told her to return with her hair coloured black.
Her parents are outraged over the treatment meted out to the 16-year-old fifth former. They went to the school on Wednesday, asking for her reinstatement and an apology, since the child’s hair is naturally brown and nothing could be done about it.
Mother Vivian Mitchell said when her 16 year-old daughter attended school for the second day of the new school term but was asked to stay in a detention room or call her parents to pick her up.
The girl said she was hauled out of line on entering the secondary school near San Fernando by a safety officer who told her she had the wrong hair colour.
Mitchell said her daughter informed her she was one of eight pupils detained at the office and then given the option to stay in the room or call a parent.
Mitchell said: “Not even the safety officer or the vice principal [names called] called me to tell me about the situation. Only when my daughter came home, the vice principal called my phone to find out if my daughter reached home. She didn’t get me because my daughter answered and she began to question my daughter.”
Peeved, Mitchell said: “I call her [the vice principal] back and asked her if she saw my daughter’s hair and whether it was appropriate for school. She said it wasn’t her call but the safety officer’s [name called].”
The Ste Madeleine woman said the manner in which the school handled the situation was negligent. She said that was her daughter’s hair colour from birth and she did not intend to change her hair colour by dying it.
She said the child was made to leave the compound in the company of her stepfather who did not sign any document to take her home, as is required.
“I am annoyed, no one called to say anything, she just left school and nobody to supervise and make sure she was taken away by an authorise parent. Look how easy it was for her to leave the school compound. If she was a bad child, look easy it was for her to do as she pleased.”
President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Associaition Davanand Sinanan said he was not at liberty to speak on the issue of the hair colour because the information often gets distorted. He advised that the parent go to the school and speak with the principal.
He said: “The correct procedure was that the child be released in the custody of a parent or legal guardian and an I.D produced and they sign to remove the child off the compound. I would want to hear from the school authority, I will not want to form a judgment based on the report of the parent alone, because I find those reports are very bias and one-sided and doesn’t always reflect the truth.”
Asked about the issue, President of the National Parent/Teachers Association Zena Ramatali said: “If the child hair has naturally brown, that is an act of God, God created the child. The parents can’t change that. If after investigation it is found that it is the natural colour of the child hair, then that is not a matter for any sort of indiscipline to discipline the child. This matter needs to be fully investigated by the Ministry… before it gets out of hand.
She said that the national school code of conduct sets out what is required of students, teachers, principals and all stakeholders in the education system.
The Express was told that on Tuesday evening an Education Ministry official called the school’s principal who denied knowing anything about the incident.