School bans on students dyeing hair divides opinion

By Thanh Hang   March 26, 2023 | 04:00 pm PT
Some people say banning students from dyeing hair and painting nails is overreach, while some educators contend such bans are necessary to foster education.

When news of a high school teacher in Vinh Phuc cutting the hair of one of her students for dyeing made headlines earlier this week, the Internet went into meltdown.

Some said a total ban on hair dye in schools is too much, but others called it reasonable and necessary.

Mai Huong, a 10th grader at the Cao Ba Quat High School in Hanoi, said her school forbids not only dyeing, but also makeup and nail paint.

Teachers make surprise checks, and any student flouting the bans is punished.

Huynh Tan Tai, a student at the Ernst Thälmann High School in HCMC’s District 1, said his school too is strict in these matters. Not only does the school ban dyeing of hair, but also requires boys to have neat and short haircuts. Makeup is prohibited.

Though the Ministry of Education and Training has no specific regulations on dyeing hair and using makeup, many schools forbid them.

Many students and parents believe such a ban is "rigid."

A VnExpress survey of over 12,000 respondents found 55% saying dyeing hair is "normal" for high school students, and schools should not ban it. The remaining 45% felt otherwise.

Phuong Loan, 47, of Hanoi’s Nam Tu Liem District, the mother of a ninth grader, said dyeing one’s hair is a personal choice and schools should let their students decide their own hair color.

Lan Anh, 43, said her 11th grader son was once pulled up by the principal for having colored hair and wearing earrings and distressed jeans. When it was reported back to his family, her son felt there were too many rules in his school, and Lan Anh concurred, saying students should be able to wear casual clothes to extracurricular classes.

While Tai agreed that hair dyeing and makeup should be banned at schools, he said schools should be more "lenient" on hair colors that are not too out of the ordinary.

Huong said only bright-colored hair and nail paints should be banned.

The Phan Ngoc Hien specialized high school in Ca Mau Province has had such a policy since the beginning of this year, only prohibiting hair colors that are too different from normal.

Its principal, Lam Hong Sen, said students should be encouraged to do what is right and not simply obey bans.

A necessity

The stills of a video on social media showing a teacher cutting off a students hair for dyeing it at a high school in Vinh Phuc Province. Photo obtained by VnExpress

The stills of a video on social media showing a teacher cutting off a student's hair for dyeing it at a high school in Vinh Phuc Province.

But Huynh Thanh Phu, principal of Nguyen Du High School in HCMC, said it is necessary for school codes to prohibit coloring of hair to develop students' personalities.

"If each student has a different hair color, it will be chaotic and messy, and no longer an environment for education."

His school also forbids students from bringing expensive belongings, and does not allow girl students to wear heels, he said.

All this is to protect and educate students in a healthy, age-appropriate environment, he said.

If students are allowed to beautify themselves, it could distract them from studying, and some other students who do not have the means to dye their hair or make up like their friends could feel insecure, he said.

He said a school's code should be in black and white, meaning a ban on hair dyeing should be applied universally.

"If we allow students to dye their hair in not-too-bright colors, where do we draw the line?"

Nguyen Tung Lam, chairman of the education council at Dinh Tien Hoang High School in Hanoi, concurred with the bans.

"It's an educational requirement."

Amid opinions saying that because today's students live in different times and are exposed to different cultural values, old school regulations are no longer appropriate, many teachers said the rules can stay but punishment for violating them should be reduced.

Lam said teachers should respect the individuality of students, and understand that they cannot force them to obey unquestioningly. Instead, teachers should strive to be patient with their students to get close to them, he said.

Phu said when students flout rules the job of teachers is to educate and not punish them.

"Any behavior that violates one's body or dignity is forbidden. That is stated by the law."

Nguyen Boi Quynh, principal of Viet Duc High School in Hanoi, said schools should get students' opinions when drawing up their code.

Before a new school year begins at Viet Duc, students are asked if they feel something is inappropriate. Depending on the responses and through discussions with parents and teachers, the school code is determined every year.

Loan said that as a parent she has no problem with students dyeing their hair, but if the school does not allow that students should comply.

Both Tai and Huong said if the bans are lifted immediately, things might go out of control.

"There's a reason why such a ban is there in the first place," Huong said.

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