Teachers have no business cutting students’ hair

From ‘Teacher cuts pupil’s hair, mum files police report’, 23 Aug 2012, article by Lua Jia Min, ST

A MOTHER has lodged a police report after her 12-year-old son’s teacher cut his hair an hour before his PSLE oral exam last Thursday. The mother, Madam Serene Ong, is outraged that the teacher did this just before a crucial exam, that it was done without her knowledge – and that it ruined the boy’s $60 haircut.

She claimed the teacher – Ms Belinda Cheng of Unity Primary – also threatened to deduct marks from the boy’s exam if he refused to have his hair cut. Yesterday, the school’s principal, Mrs Jasmail Singh Gill, agreed with Madam Ong that the teacher had no business cutting the boy’s hair.

But, she said, Primary 6 pupils had been warned before about sporting long hair, and Ms Cheng had the right intentions. “The teacher cut the boys’ hair as she wanted them to look neat,” said Mrs Gill.

…Madam Ong, 39, a sales manager, said she received a call from her son Ryan Ang at about 10am on the day of the exam. His oral exam was at 11am. He was crying and told her that Ms Cheng, who is one of his form teachers, had cut his fringe and sideburns. He and the two other boys had been pulled up during a spot check for long hair.

“The teacher had no right to cut his hair,” said Madam Ong. “She showed me no respect by not telling me that she was going to cut his hair beforehand,” she said. “Worse, she threatened to deduct his oral marks if he didn’t agree to let her cut his hair. It was an hour before his PSLE oral exam. What if it had affected his performance?”

She said she was so upset she made a police report and complained to the Ministry of Education that night. She said Ryan did not dare to step out of the house for two days “because he thought he looked funny“.

Ms Cheng, she added, had also wasted the $60 she had spent on Ryan’s hair just five days before the incident. He has been going to a hairstylist at Reds Hairdressing for several years. Madam Ong spent another $60 getting his hair restyled on Saturday.

…”Doing this is like going back hundreds of years,” said Dr Foo Suan Fong, principal of Dunman High. His students are given a warning and a deadline to get their hair cut. If they do not do so, the school will contact their parents, whom it regards as “our education partners”.

Earlier this year, the police were hauled in to investigate a case of verbal abuse when a teacher told a student that he ‘didn’t want to see her face’. In the case of a vainpot Ryan who spent the equivalent of my entire year’s haircut budget ($120) at Red’s, my concern is not so much whether his teacher went overboard or if his mum overreacted (parents always do these days), but how his reaction to the ordeal of a teacher manhandling his funky mop speaks for kids of his generation, kids whose parents resist till this day from calling them ‘BABY’, though ‘babies’ are exactly what they behave like.

What bugs me is that he’s TWELVE, CRIED and LOCKED himself at home for DAYS as if it weren’t a few snips of a scissors but a crude lopping and scalping with pruning shears. Ever heard of a CAP, boy? God, it’s like the apocalypse just befell us all. I mean, just look at his pose. Look at it. I don’t blame the teacher for having the urge to run his head through with a motorised grass-cutter.

The police didn’t notice that in some countries this is an obscene gesture

And then take a look at this. Both images make you want to hurt someone real bad.

Cuteness in Spades

Having teachers multitasking as hairdressers is not a ‘hundred year old’ practice as one principal claimed. Hair-snipping as a last-resort punishment has been meted out as late as the early eighties, when long hair was a bane of society, associated with delinquency, truancy and Satanic rock music. Sometimes, even the vice-principals joined in the sadistic fun of seeing girls weep when their fringes are chopped off. In fact, it was only early this year that a similar case of police reporting occurred when a SEC TWO boy went home crying to mommy that the school’s stand-in hairdresser did a cut so patchy it looked like he singed his head over a BBQ fire. Hey, at least you didn’t get EXPELLED for unruly hair, eh? On the bright side, if you’re a kiasu parent volunteer balloting for Primary 1 next year and happen to be a PROFESSIONAL hairdresser, you have a high chance of landing your kid a spot, if only to prevent other kids from calling the police on teachers whose only crime is giving kids haircuts so awful they can’t face the world bearing them. How on earth are they going to post flirty pics of themselves on Facebook with such embarrassingly crappy hairdos?

Oh I know it’s blase to lament about how spoilt modern children have become, living a high-strung life of mollycoddling privilege with a sense of entitlement, cam-whoring narcissism and inflated self-esteem, brought up like little dainty princes and princesses with maids at their beck and call to carry schoolbags for them. Still, it’s totally unwise and unnecessary in my opinion that the police be involved in this matter even if the teacher got a touch too physical and intimidating at the worst possible time. Ryan wasn’t groped on the buttocks or hung upside down for days without food as punishment.  If the police call-operators had any sense of proportion, such petty calls should have been directed to the kind folks at IMH, who specialise in managing not only pediatric mental disorders like body (or hair) dysmorphic depressive disorder but anxiety management for the parents as well. Maybe they have special packages for such parent-son treatments, buy one sedative get 1 anti-depressant free.

Well all the best for your PSLE, Ryan. I’m sure you’ll do fine, this after all not being a test of your MANHOOD.

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17 Responses

  1. […] Of Kids and Education: When a haircut becomes breaking news – Everything Also Complain: Teachers have no business cutting students’ hair – A Singaporean In Australia: Why Cannot Cut Your Son’s Hair? – ALVINOLOGY: […]

  2. I guess the days when long haired people were served last on government instructions have long been forgotten

  3. I know that this article essentially centers on how “spoilt” our Singaporean kids are today. However, the point I want to raise is, what are our teachers’ objectives? Are their roles as teachers to instill fear and punishment or to encourage learning and opening minds? However, how can our teachers open the minds of our children if they choose to keep their minds close? And how do they propose to have a conducive environment for learning if they are all about fear and punishment?

    In the 70’s, we had an obscure and senseless law, which dictated that men with long hair be served last. This is 2012, do we still have to make a fuss about how short boys have to keep their hair in order to avoid punishment? Here, I am pretty sure that the “offenders” are not sporting long hair but just hair that have grown a little beyond the permitted length prescribed by the school. This is evidenced by one of the statements in the article, “He was crying and told her that Ms Cheng, who is one of his form teachers, had cut his fringe and sideburns.”

    I do not think that the author who wrote the article and who has branded these children of being “spoilt” and “living a high-strung life of mollycoddling privilege with a sense of entitlement, cam-whoring narcissism and inflated self-esteem, brought up like little dainty princes and princesses with maids at their beck and call to carry schoolbags for them”, understand that they are still children who are still constructing their self-concept and as a result, their self-esteem, self-definition, self-recognition, and self-awareness are still at very vulnerable and undefined states. Enough of such experiences can well turn their self-concept into a negative one.

    I personally know of a case of a 16 year old boy who often played truancy. The principal and class teacher would sometimes call his mom or call him to have him attend school. However, whenever he decided to attend school, he was always stopped at the gate and refused entry unless he cut his hair first or allow the teacher to cut his hair. The boy would not agree to either one and simply not attend school at all.

    Obviously, there were more underlying issues than just the cutting of hair that caused the truancy. However, if the boy had made his way all the way to the school, surely a part of him must have wanted to be in school. Shouldn’t the teaching staff have seized the opportunity and found ways to encourage him to continue coming back to school? Threatening to cut his hair or sending him home to have his hair cut was simply focusing on the wrong objective and it also eliminated learning opportunities for that boy. At 16 years of age, that boy is still a child. His brain has yet to fully develop and he has yet to acquire sufficient and related experiences to completely understand the future consequences of not having an education and the required certification. The teaching staff on the other hand, do.

    Again, I ask, what are the objectives of our teachers? Are they in school to nurture, encourage, facilitate, and, initiate learning and to provide opportunities for exploration, investigation, and discovery? Or are teachers in school to instill conformity and fear and inflict punishment and shame on children? If the objectives fall in the latter category, then I fear, that the priorities of the objectives of our education system could be alarmingly misplaced and inappropriate.

    • I think you could work in the school for a while before talking about objectives

    • At 16 and u do not have the discipline to look presentable and attend school… It’s nobody’s fault that he gets turned away. It’s just bad parenting.

      It’s amazing how u can defend the 12 y.o. kid who has $60 haircuts…

  4. Just slap the little shit. Slap the stupid mother too.

  5. @roni63
    I’m not going to wax poetic about what the teacher’s role ideally is. The education system in Singapore is far from optimal in my opinion anyway.

    I’d just like to say that I’m rather amazed at what you are suggesting, that rules should be broken or changed for individuals that think they’re doing the school a favour by coming to school; that organizations should bend backwards if it’s for the noble purpose of attracting a misguided soul back on track (a superficial improvement, anyway, as even you acknowledged there were other underlying issues). If one day you think a smart dress code is a silly, outdated rule, do you expect the company to say, well, all right, come in singlets and shorts then? Why would you want kids to grow up thinking they are above the system? You also seem to miss the whole point that the mollycoddling (including the bending over backwards behaviour you so approve of) is part of what caused the ‘vulnerable’ self-esteem you speak of. I sense a lot of sympathy of poor Ryan’s vulnerable self-esteem, etc. etc.. It horrifies me that you don’t seem to consider the possibility that children DON’T lock themselves in their rooms and cry over a haircut, not if they are brought up with right attitudes and have parents/loved ones assuring them and teaching them how NOT to get their hearts broken over the wrong things.

    Sorry, but you seem the type prone to mollycoddling.

    • I agree with you, Z.

      Schools are where kids go to learn to respect basic rules that they bring into their adult life – such as being on time, keeping certain hairstyles, proper attire… When the child comes out to university or to work, they may have less restrictions, but the basic rules apply. They still need to be on time, achieve a certain attendance rate, and dress and conduct themselves appropriately.

      Parents who coddle their kids and systems that change the rules for certain individuals do not help them at all.

      Back in my time (early-mid 90’s), students often had their hair cut and dyed by teachers, especially when school restarts after the long December break.. I don’t recall parents kicking up a fuss. Actually, I think my parents felt ashamed for forgetting to tidy me up (I had a few beaded and colored braids while on vacation) and apologized to my teacher for the trouble. If I face disciplinary action in school, it will be reinforced at home. Parents and teachers used to work together…

      I don’t know what the boy’s parents are did, but they’ve clearly got themselves an ill-disciplined, bratty child. Funny how they were so proud to report that the boy didn’t want to go out. If I were them, I’d be too shy to admit that I had raised a wuss. It’s just a haircut. There are worse things in the world for goodness sake!

      I can only hope that I won’t make the same mistakes as them when I’m a parent. Haha! Seriously, good luck to Serene Ong and the brat.

      • Sadly, I think parents like Serene Ong and roni63 are the majority now. That has to be why there’s so many such young ones on the streets. I certainly hope it isn’t some mentality that people automatically adopt once they have a kid!

  6. just spend time in a school as relief for one term….you’ll write a different article

  7. Wow. Quite a response on this supposedly “petty” issue.
    On one hand I agree that the boy is probably a brat and on the other I do not agree what the teacher had done.

    Even if there are rules & regulations on hair length for male students, that’s just it. The school can enforce those on its students but I can bet nothing on the school rule book say that the penalty will be that a student will be forced into a haircut.

    I’m not defending the boy but rather I’m questioning the teacher’s action. The parent is justified when she queried as to why wasn’t she informed prior to the haircut. The issue has become to one which is even more serious. That teacher had decided to take matters into her own hands. Some of us may argue that the child is spoilt or that it is a petty thing. Well , you may be right, although you may be missing the point.

    In the 70s and 80s, corporal punishment in the school was a norm. No parent will bat an eyelid if their child was caned or hit with a metre long wooden ruler -yes, the yellow one. Either that or no one dared to speak up because everyone else seemed ok with it. As a result, we, children of that generation suffered the wrath of our educators and we have the bruises to show for it. So is this what we call ideal and acceptable?

    We should evolve as a society and learn from mistakes we did from the past. It is wise to step into the shoes of the educators and see things from their point of view but it doesn’t necessarily make their sentiments absolutely right.

    • No, I didn’t miss that the teacher’s action wasn’t justified. We just think it’s ridiculous to make a police report because “teacher cut my baby’s hair. It cost $60 you know!” There’re other avenues to try to punish the teacher without showing the world your little boy is a baby – that a parent doesn’t see that her son and her behavior is embarrassing is just more worrying to me than an errant teacher.

  8. I am a teacher. In my 15 years of teaching, the students who progressed well and overcome their personal difficulties are often the ones whose parents worked closely with the school teachers. Seriously, it is better to have teachers who bother to take action to correct your kids then to have indifferent teachers who could not care less about what is happening to her students.
    Most students tell their parent a different version of what has happened in school. It is often due to fear of punishment so they will push all the blame to the teacher, never mind if the story is distorted.

    • Im a student and I think this is ridiculous thats obviously not a $60 haircut but I think fault is from both sides. Everytime in school there are always spoilt brats almost everwhere, especially in primary school, a normal teacher won’t cut a boys hair without giving warnings and just by looking at him i can tell hes no good. A teacher should seek consent or tell the parent if she/he were to cut the boys hair and a mother shouldnt get so worked up about it. The teacher should know the boy is spoilt and about his self esteem if the teacher cut his hair right beforr the exam she/he probably didnt like him. And my hair was longer when I took PSLE a year ago. If something terrible happened to ruin my self esteem

      right before PSLE I will surely do badly especially for oral. A teacher should only be pushed to this on last resort and a student should resoect the rules

  9. I believe Ms Belinda Cheng overdid her role as a teacher. Then what have the discipline master/mistress to do? What about the Allied Educators(Counselling)?

    We definitely need to inculcate the right values in our children but we cannot let the teachers overdo their actions neither. We therefore need to strengthen the right values in our teachers and worked along with the others so that – “Together, we can make a difference.”

  10. Please trust Teacher and allow them to “Bring-Up” the child. The child will realise later.
    It takes a big heart to shape litte mind- lets not get emotional

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