Thai activists want humiliating haircut punishments to stop in government schools after a teacher was accused of cutting at least 100 students’ hair.
According to The Guardian, the activists are calling for clearer guidelines surrounding the haircut rule in government schools after the Ministry of Education revoked the decades-long haircut regulations.
Now, the Ministry says schools can develop their own rules regarding students’ haircuts. But, as Thai schools are deeply conservative, activists say the new rule will unlikely bring any noticeable change to how students can style their hair.
Laponpat Wangpaisit, or “Min,” who founded the Bad Student group, says the new mandate is vague.
“The result is that it gives the full freedom to the schools and schools can do anything without consequence.”
Last week, students at a Petchabun province school forwarded the Bad Student group a message that contained footage of a teacher cutting students’ hair as they sat in lines beside the school flagpole.
The students had allegedly violated haircut rules, resulting in a teacher lining them up and cutting large tufts of hair from their heads. The hair was blowing around on the concrete and was seen as humiliating to many students as it circulated on social media.
The education minister, Treenuch Thienthong, responded to the video by saying such actions were inappropriate but seemingly sided with the teacher by saying her actions were “well-intentioned,” in wanting to discipline students.
She said an investigation has been ordered into the matter and furthered that teachers should not impose punishments that cause embarrassment.
But, there seem to be no repercussions toward such teachers who issue such humiliating punishments. And, as Bad Student says they regularly receive complaints of teachers cutting students’ hair without their consent, and the consequences for such actions by teachers appear to be absent.
Haircut rules were originally imposed back in the 1970s by the military. For decades, male students were supposed to have military-style crew cuts while females could wear their hair no longer than their earlobes.
In 2020, the rules were relaxed but male students were still not permitted to wear their hair beyond the base of their necks. Moustaches, beards, perms, and dyed hair remained banned.
Kunthida Rungruengkiat, a former MP with the disbanded Future Forward opposition party, says that older generations view such policies as promoting discipline.
“Their fundamental belief is that in order to become a good citizen of society, in order for you to be able to integrate into the society, you have to obey certain rules.”
But, in many Western countries such collective societal norms are viewed as violating freedom of expression and independence. Moreover, the extreme attention paid to a student’s appearance has been seen as being more important than their curriculum by many outsiders to the Thai educational system.
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