Debate ignites about students’ rights over hair

By Hsieh Chia-chun and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Mon, Oct 21, 2013 - Page 3

The Constitution clearly protects the individual rights to physical autonomy, and schools should consider how to increase the quality of education instead of worrying what students do to their hair, Humanistic Education Foundation executive director Joanna Feng (馮喬蘭) said.

Feng made the remarks after recent reports that the private Hujiang High School in Taipei has rules for female students, requiring them to tie their hair back if the length passes their shoulders, and has handed out demerits to students who do not comply.

“If regulations over students’ hair will increase the quality of education, then it would be very easy to be the principal of a school,” Feng said.

School administrations should not infringe on students’ human rights, she said, saying that it was due to the hard work of the students that the restriction on pupils’ hair in public schools had been lifted.

Hujian High School principal Wang Lee-chun (王禮駿) said the school made the regulation only in the past year or two, out of concern that students would not be able to study properly with messy hair.

Even if students did not abide by the regulation, the school would only discuss the situation in order to get students to see the issue from the school’s perspective, Wang said.

He said the school would not hand out any sort of punitive measures for noncompliance.

The Ministry of Education abolished general restrictions on students’ hair in 2005, Taipei City Government’s education department official Tan Yi-ching (譚以敬) said.

Tan said the ministry and the schools agree that private schools may enforce uniform and attire regulations, which must be clearly stated in the student pamphlet, but may not hand out punishment if the regulations are violated.

However, Taipei Teacher’s Association chairman Yang Yi-feng (楊益風) said that despite the ministry’s claims, many private schools still enforce restrictions on students’ hair, and even use enforcement of such codes as a means to show parents that the school encourages good order, as well as academic performance.

The law does not really extend to questions of attire and personal appearance in private schools because they are private institutions and enjoy autonomy over their own affairs, Yang said.