How should students' dress and grooming be regulated?

Dress and Grooming Guidelines for Students in Schools


We have had very few discussions on this site recently but when I was asked by the National Council on Education to solicit views on a topic, this seemed like one forum to use. I’ve always thought that this was a great platform – if underused.

 The topic

 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. Responses to the school’s position included claims that school rules should be obeyed; accusations of discrimination and human-rights abuses; and a focus on 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 we recognized that most students are properly attired. However, the widespread debate about the incident, suggested the need for a wider consultation to inform the Ministry. 

 The question: How should schools, public or private, regulate student dress and grooming? 

 We’ve spoken to parents, teachers, principals, school board members and students about this matter. (The presentation we used can be viewed in the Resources section). We found a wide cross section of views (as much as in the Council) and a greater interest than we expected. 

 Needless to say, we found legislation to support all sides of the regulation debate. On one hand were those who felt that a adherence to a strict policy could seriously lead to some form of discrimination - the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms was cited.  Others cited the Education Act and Regulations' mandate that the Minister of Education consider the wishes of parents - as long as this was compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training, and did not incur unreasonable public expenditure.

 What of the students?

  Yes, students are required to obey school rules. However, they 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 individual schools. There is, therefore, room for considerable (mis)interpretation.


Who should decide the regulation?

 ∗Should the Ministry establish a policy for dress and grooming? 

 ∗Or should it just be guidelines?

 ∗Should it be left to the school to establish their own rules? If so, what role should the Ministry play?


In moving to an answer other questions/issues arise:

 ∗What constitutes appropriate dress?

 ∗How does one ensure that there is no discrimination?

 ∗How  does one prevent  prescription when   moderation is required?

 ∗Does it matter if the institution is private or government owned?


 NCE’s Position

 •The Council’s view is that guidelines based on non-discrimination, health, safety and moderation should be developed by the Ministry with the input of stakeholders and given to School Boards for guidance.

 • 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.


What do you think?

 1.A policy from the Ministry?


 3.School-based decision?

 4.Or something else?


Beverley Bryan



Comments (3)

Nadine's picture

I agree with the position of the Council in that there should be generic guidelines for school boards. It can not be that everyone does his/her  'thing' at his /her discretion. This approach from my perspective as a parent supports the need for students to respond to rules that will facilitate their personal development.  

mmurray's picture

I support the proposal that there should be national guidelines on dress and grooming for students in school. The guidelines are really standards which allow for a more structured approach to dress and grooming in schools  and provide a framework in which schools can operate taking into consideration their local situation.  It is the view that dress and grooming are an expression of self. Schools as agents of socialization, therefore, should provide opportunities in which students can express themselves freely and confidently in an acceptable manner. It is about assisting the student to develop awareness of self and others. The school, therefore is responsible for creating and inculcating in students acceptable norms and values. According to a president of popular university, “dress and grooming is not the most important standard of the institution, but it is the most visible as we associate with each other.”

Beverley Bryan's picture
Beverley Bryan

Let me provide you with a brief update on the consultation on Dress and Grooming posted at the beginning of the month. Response was not strong from this site but we do have a few comments that we included in our report to the Minister. The National Council on Education at its meeting on Tuesday 24th April signed off on its report with a strong recommendation for flexibility and more emphasis on guidelines rather than policy. However, the discussion continues as the National Parent Teachers Association wants more time to fully determine their position. It is a topic of great interest to them and to the students - the group most affected. So please let us continue the dialogue; leave any additional comments at the NCE website.