An investigative report revealed that 72.5 percent of the nation’s senior-high schools and 95.6 percent of junior-high schools punish students for wearing unapproved winter clothes in contravention of educational guidelines, lawmakers and student rights advocates said yesterday.
Speaking at a news conference at the Legislative Yuan, the Taiwan Youth Association for Democracy said there is an endemic disregard for the Ministry of Education’s regulations and that private schools are more likely to contravene ministry rules.
The report is a compilation of 2,856 student reports about dress code reinforcement at 425 high schools and vocational high schools, the association said.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) last month wrote on Facebook that ministry rules allow students to wear out-of-uniform clothing items to keep warm, but his reminder had apparently fallen on deaf ears, it added.
“According to ministry regulations, schools can not dictate the temperatures under which students are allowed to use cold-weather clothing, but our report shows that schools are disregarding the instructions,” association secretary-general Chang Yu-meng (張育萌) said.
The most common types of illegal dress code enforcement by schools include punishing students for wearing the hoods of hooded sweaters, wearing scarves and beanies, and failing to wear winter clothing in approved colors, as well as punishing female students for not wearing a skirt, association deputy secretary-general Ho Wei-tzu (何蔚慈) said.
Schools have been accused of confiscating clothing items from students, he said.
“Students told us that all they wanted to do was to keep warm during class, but school officials have made that difficult,” he added.
“When schools tell students that it is not cold enough, they are putting vestigial authoritarianism on display,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Fan Yun (范雲) said. “Schools should not expect students to respond to cold in a uniform way.”
Fan slammed Yunlin County’s Yuanming Junior High School for requiring female students to wear plain underwear when school officials “should be thinking about why people can see through their school uniforms.”
That a Hsinchu Industrial Senior High School military instructor reportedly told a student “to go take classes at the ministry” for questioning the legality of the school dress code shows that schools are contemptuous of ministerial oversight, she said.
New Power Party Legislator Claire Wang (王婉諭) said “it is shocking that we have so little respect for the rights to self-expression and body autonomy of our children in this day and age.”
“Places of education should be about knowledge, understanding and respect,” she said. “How can you educate students if you have no respect?”
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