Thailand’s Ministry of Education (MOE) has come under pressure from student rights activists to abolish haircut regulations and enforce more effective measures against teacher misconduct following a viral incident earlier this week.
The incident, involving a male teacher forcibly cutting a female student’s hair in front of the school assembly in Sisaket province, sparked an online debate and has led to students from the Education for Liberation of Siam group to submit petitions to the MOE.
Fifty-eight students from around Thailand submitted 58 petitions calling for the MOE to scrap “outdated” haircut regulations and enforce more effective procedures against teacher misconduct.
According to the group who submitted the petitions, the haircut regulations are used as an excuse for teachers to violate students’ rights.
While they acknowledged that the rules are not as strict as before, individual schools determining their own standards have led to incidents such as the one in Sisaket province.
The group said that since schools have reopened on July 1st, they have received complaints about various forms of punishment administered to students who violate the haircut rules. They gave examples of bad haircuts performed by teachers and even cases of students having their heads shaved.
The group said they would follow the petition with a lawsuit on haircut regulations at the Administrative Court on July 26th to 30th.
The Permanent Secretary of the MOE, Prasert Boonruang, confirmed receipt of the petitions.
He said the ministry would consider the petitions and acknowledged that some schools do not follow the current regulations. However, he also stressed that it is up to individual schools and communities to determine rules.
Another group, Eastern Youth for Democracy, called for the MOE to better enforce punishment to teachers who abuse their power in schools.
To protect student rights, the group has called for the MOE to implement four policies:
- Strict disciplinary procedures against all teachers whose actions affect the well-being, both physically and mentally, of students.
- If a teacher’s action is classified as a crime, the MOE must assist the victim throughout the legal process.
- Promote and provide awareness of the 1579 hotline designed to receive complaints from students about teacher misconduct.
- Review current regulations to include stricter punishment for wrongdoing by teachers and principals.
Mr. Boonruang responded to the suggested policies by saying there are regulations in place already. Still, due to provincial education authorities handling such cases, they usually take time.
He also said he has no power to intervene in provincial cases and could only urge local authorities to follow the proper procedures.