Dress and Grooming Guidelines for Students in Schools

Recently, the decision taken by an independent school in St. Andrew to exclude a student because of the length of his hair, generated much discussion.

Should schools, public or private, regulate student dress and grooming? Responses to the school’s position included claims that rules should be obeyed; accusations of discrimination and human-rights abuses; students’ rights and parents' responsibilities.

In the absence of a national policy on dress and grooming in schools, the Ministry of

Education Youth & Information (MOEY&I) referred the issue for discussion to the National Council on Education (NCE), the nation’s major policy advisory body on education.

In the Council’s discussions the necessity for a national policy on dress and grooming for students was questioned, as it was recognized that most students are properly attired.

However, the widespread debate about the incident, suggests the need for a formal response from the Ministry.

Other issues raised were:

  • Should the Ministry establish guidelines for dress and grooming or should schools be allowed to establish their own rules?
  • What constitutes appropriate dress and how can schools guide students in this regard?
  • How does one strike a balance between non-discrimination and moderation?
  • Does it matter if the institution is private or government owned?

In responding to these questions, it must be borne in mind that guidelines for dress and grooming have to be informed by schools’ legislative and institutional framework comprised of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, the Education Act, 1965 and attendant

Regulations of 1980, as well as the rules of individual schools.

For example, the Education Act and Regulations mandate that the Minister of Education consider the wishes of parents as long as this is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and does not incur unreasonable public expenditure. Students though required to obey school rules have the right of appeal if they feel that they are being victimized or unfairly treated. Moreover, parents have the option of signing their agreement to rules developed by schools.

NCE’s Position

The Council’s view is that formal guidelines based non-discrimination, health, safety and decorum should be developed with the input of stakeholders. Additionally, the Council regards the dress and grooming debate as symptomatic of the need for a wider debate in a broader context of discipline within schools; the values and attitudes imparted to our children; and the social and cultural norms signalled to them as appropriate.

Express your opinion on this matter and thereby make an input in our recommendations to the Ministry by emailing your suggestions to the National Council on Education at

nce@nce.org.jm.

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The establishment of the NCE was born out of the need to have a non-partisan, national and strategically placed organisation that would "address a wide range of issues impacting on the education process".

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