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Long and short of it

The recent suspensions from Graydon Sealy Secondary were a hot topic at the BCC. Akeem Nurse said any teacher dressed inappropriately should have also been sent home as adults were supposed to set an example. (Pictures by Nigel Browne.) BCC student guild treasurer Roshanna Trim said the school regulations were nothing new so there was no reason students should be breaking them now. This group of UWI students had differing angles, but the consensus was the same – they agreed with the suspensions.

By Carlos Atwell | Fri, October 26, 2012 - 11:03 AM

One of the hot topics of late is the action of Matthew Farley, principal of Graydon Sealy Secondary School.

Recently, in keeping to a standardized dress code he said had been agreed to by a committee within the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools, he suspended 265 students for various infractions, mostly hemlines which did not meet the two inches below the knee requirement. It was an action he had also executed a few years ago.

Street Beat visited two of Barbados’ tertiary institutions, the Barbados Community College (BCC) and the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill campus, to get an idea of what these older students thought of the situation, bearing in mind some of them were secondary school students not too long ago.

At BCC, part of the executive of the students’ guild had a heated discussion over the matter. President Ketisha Joseph, a Dominican, gave her perspective.

“I went to a private high school – St Martin’s Secondary – where one of the rules was the skirt had to be below the knee. If it wasn’t, then you would get a warning and if caught again, then sent home to get your parents and come back. Once the knees are covered, I don’t see why it is a problem or why it has to be a certain level below the knee.”

Joseph also said the students should not have been sent home in the middle of the day. However, she said it was important to stick to the rules, adding she had no problem with any student being punished for tattoos or piercings.

But she also felt parents had to shoulder some of the blame.

“You can’t only blame students; you have to blame parents as well. My mother used to tell me I represented her wherever I went, so to behave or look badly was a reflection on her. Do their parents see them leave home?” she asked.

Asha Pitt, a former Ellerslie student now guild secretary, said students had to take some responsibility for their own actions. She said the high numbers of fifth form students sent home were risking their own education by not sticking to the rules with the Caribbean Secondary Education Certification examination coming up.

Roshanna Trim said the rules pertaining to school uniforms and dress were not new so there was no excuse for the children to be breaking them. She said Graydon Sealy Secondary was an example other schools needed to follow.

 A former student of Combermere, the current treasurer of the guild said the teachers there used to take down the hemlines of any female student deemed to be wearing her uniform too short.

Danielle Barnett said surprise uniform inspections were nothing new at her alma mater, Harrison College. She said students caught breaking the rules would either get their uniforms adjusted or would have to get their parents. However, she said they were not suspended straight away as at the Graydon Sealy School.

“While rules and stipulations are in place to ensure decency, I think it is taking it too far to get sent home for, say, half an inch. There still has to be some flexibility,” she said.

The lone male in the group, who requested anonymity, was in Farley’s corner. He said he agreed with the mass suspensions as they would act as a deterrent.

“In fact, I think the rules should extend even outside the schools. It is one thing to enforce them inside the school walls but having students still looking nasty outside?”

At UWI, a group of students was studying quietly when the Street Beat team approached. The topic also caused much debate.

Stefan Lorde said while he agreed with Farley’s actions, he thought he had compromised too much.

“I applaud him for his stance because a uniform is the identification of a school and wearing it inappropriately reflects badly on that school, but I disagreed with him meeting with parents individually afterwards. He should have stuck to what he was doing – send them home and lock his door.”

However, Lorde, a former student of Combermere, also took issue with the report there was a teacher at the school who was also not dressed appropriately.

“I have read stories in the Press where a parent said there was a teacher inappropriately dressed, so if he is sending home students, he should send home that teacher as well,” he said.

Akeem Nurse attended Ellerslie Secondary. He agreed with Lorde on sending home teachers who also did not look the part.

“It may sound outrageous, but you may need something outrageous to get the desired results. Every adult should take into consideration they are role models. I believe lowering standards destroys a nation and examples need to be made as things tend to snowball until they can no longer be controlled,” he said.

A former Queen’s College student, identified only as “Janene”, said setting standards in school was also setting them for society.

“I think it is also an issue of setting standards for women in general. If your school uniform is high above your knee at 13 years old, what will you be doing after you leave school? You may think it appetizing to men and may think that is how it should be, but you will only end up disrespected. And to see teachers dressed the same way?

“Setting standards should not be looked down upon; set them now and it will teach young women to [respect] themselves later,” she added.

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