Student rights groups demand abolition of haircut regulations

Three groups of student rights activists have demanded that the Ministry of Education (MOE) abolish haircut regulations and institute more effective procedures against teacher misconduct.

Student activists submitting the petitions to representatives of the MOE.

On 10 July, 8 student activists from the Education for Liberation of Siam group went to the MOE to submit 58 petitions each signed by 58 students from every part of the country calling on the Education Minister to abolish the current haircut regulations.

Prasert Boonruang, Permanent Secretary of the MOE, received the petitions.

Representatives from the group said that the haircut regulations have not only deprived students of the right over their own bodies but are also used as an excuse for teachers to violate other rights of students. They said they acknowledge that the current regulations are not as strict as before but still give full authority to each school to determine its own rules.

As a platform for students to share their experiences, the group said that within only 10 days since schools reopened, they received information about many forms of punishment that violate MOE regulations. Schools have punished students who violate the haircut policy by, for example, shaving their heads or giving them bad haircuts.

They pointed out that most of the time when students complained, no one listened, and the severe punishments continued. The group said if the MOE cannot even punish teachers who violate MOE regulations, it means that the Ministry cannot enforce its rules effectively.

The group suggested that the MOE just abolish all haircut regulations.

“Haircut regulations have never guaranteed educational success. No one can say that students with short hair will study well; no one can say that students with long hair will be bad people,” the group said.

They said this activity is a part of their project to file a lawsuit on the haircut issue at the Administrative Court on 26-30 July.

The MOE Permanent Secretary said the Ministry will take their complaints into consideration. Prasert said he acknowledges that there are schools that do not follow the current MOE regulations but he said it is up to each school and its community members to determine the rules, and he has no power to make everyone follow regulations.

While the Education for Liberation of Siam demanded abolition of the rules, Nuttaa Mahattana and Eastern Youth for Democracy demanded that the MOE effectively enforce punishment for teacher misconduct.

Nuttaa, a political activist, said there have been many examples of abusive behaviour by teachers in schools as seen in the news, including severe punishments and sexual, physical and mental harassment. Even though there are regulations preventing teachers from such misconduct, Nuttaa said it is obvious that school principals and the MOE are not enforcing them effectively, as such behaviour continued in schools.

In order for the MOE to make sure that student rights are well protected, Nuttaa suggested four policies:

  1. Implement strict disciplinary procedures against all teachers whose actions affect student’s physical and mental well-being
  2. If an action constitutes a crime, the MOE must help the victim in the legal process
  3. Raise awareness of the 1579 hotline number, which is for students to complain about misconduct
  4. Review MOE regulations to include punishment for misconduct by principals and teachers

“School should be a safe space for every student,” Nuttaa said.

Prasert said there are existing enforcement procedures to handle teacher misconduct, but they usually take time because of the bureaucratic system. He explained that provincial education authorities would normally handle cases in their provinces and he has no power to intervene. The only thing he said he could do is to urge them to follow the proper procedures.