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Straight facts, no additives: The truth about the media’s brown-haired school girl story

Contributor Damian Scott has something to say on the scandal supposedly caused by the sending home of a Trinidad schoolgirl for the colour of her hair in his Letter to the Editor:

There is a local saying that there is always more in the mortar than what we see on the pestle. To put it more universally, don’t believe the hype because there is always more to an issue than what is immediately apparent.

In this case, I am referring to the story of the 16-year-old female fifth form student who, as the media reports put it, was sent home because her ‘natural’ hair colour did not conform to the school rules.

Photo: Go on...
Photo: Go on…

Given the Colfire shenanigans of last month, this development—as reported—upset many a person due to the perceived racial and colonial undertones. And rightly so, given the context in which the young lady’s story was portrayed.

However, in this matter, I think the media went for the cheap sensational pop rather than doing the legwork required to put the story in its proper context and perspective. So, allow me to do what the media clearly didn’t and present to you the real story.

The young lady in question went to school with her artificially coloured hair—yes, the colouring in it was not by natural means—and was spotted by the school’s safety officer. This safety officer is a Ministry-employed official who has several wide-ranging responsibilities with regard to student behaviour and discipline. So she was, in fact, doing her job.

The young lady was taken to the office for breach of the school’s rules and it was determined that she would be sent home according to the established guidelines for such disciplinary infractions. So far so good, right?

This is where the story gets murky. According to the school’s own rules, a parent/guardian has to be notified and must come into the office and sign somewhere before the child can be allowed to leave the compound during school hours. This rule was put in place to protect both the school and the child in such incidents.

Photo: Well, actually you should make time for proper procedure.
Photo: Well, actually you should make time for proper procedure.

In this case, that rule was not followed as the child was allowed to depart from the school compound on her own and, according to a source, subsequently met her stepfather who then took her home.

The child’s mother came to the school to complain not so much about the hair colour matter—which was fairly indefensible—but about how her daughter could have been allowed to leave the school premises in violation of the established rules for same. And that should have been the focus of the story!

Had something happened to the young lady outside of the school after she left, the school and its officials would have been fully liable.

Suppose, hypothetically, this girl had used her unexpected freedom to link up with her boyfriend to do whatever they pleased. What would the school have been able to say?

Or, worse yet, if she became the victim of some kind of accident or even criminal assault after leaving the compound in that manner. What would the school have been able to say then?

Photo: Geezan ages...
Photo: Geezan ages…

Also, just to make sure that this isn’t misconstrued as an ‘us-versus-them’ scenario, the mother, her daughter and the safety officer share the same ethnicity.

The school principal, apparently, was caught unawares in this drama. It appears that the school’s sewage systems was acting up and the toilets were not working.

This matter, according to sources, fully engaged the principal’s attention at the time since, if it could not be quickly rectified, he would have had to send the entire student population home.

So he was essentially engrossed by excrement as another staff member was creating another messy situation with a brown-haired girl. When subsequently asked about the incident, the principal could only reply that he knew nothing about it.

Now that the matter is a media sensation—although not for the reason highlighted by the press—it may prove difficult to determine who exactly green-lit the girl’s departure in absence of a parent’s sign off. I’m sure that the self-preservation instinct within whoever is actually responsible has already fully kicked in.

Photo: Dancehall star Shaggy distances himself from ex-Sport Minister Anil Roberts.
Photo: Dancehall star Shaggy distances himself from ex-Sport Minister Anil Roberts.

I do not envy the principal’s role in this saga as he had no responsibility in the decision to let the child leave but is no doubt absorbing the bulk of the responsibility and fallout from it.

Let me conclude by saying that I am not a media worker nor do I have any official tie or relationship with a media house. But it cannot be that I have more resources than the media—financial or otherwise—to get the details in a story of this nature.

And by playing to the sentiments already stoked because of the Colfire incident, the media took this story in a direction that it didn’t have to go and fooled a lot of people in the process.

For this, we the public deserve an apology. But you might quicker see my hair dyed pink and purple than receive that.

Photo: Cheups...
Photo: Cheups…

About Scotty Ranking

Scotty Ranking
Damian R. Scott is an ICT professional and a lifelong student (and part-time teacher) of language and communication. As Scotty Ranking, he frequently comments on topical issues of the day, dispensing knowledge to all and sundry.

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42 comments

  1. Student don’t get to leave the compound that easily. Registered parents or guardians must come for a child. Hair colour and own way. Sounds like the child walked out on her own.

  2. A principal, vice principal, and deans can authorize or send home a child. But when the sh%t hits the fan, the principal is the one who will be held responsible

  3. I knew there was more in the mortar than just the pestle.

  4. Long long ago we went with ribbons in our hair….

  5. Nah ! Our honest media ? This media , where a MATT president slaps a man after a fender bender , or where a reporter dresses in TTPS uniform and robs business owners ? Nah !

  6. The principal ever heard of….multitasking? Steups!

  7. Spare me. Nothing was wrong with the girl’s hair. Pretty sure

  8. The author works at the school?

    • I spoke to Damian R. Scott and was satisfied about his information. But he would have to tell you more on that.

    • Ok.
      Was just asking to know why one written piece should be viewed as more credible than the other.

    • If I worked at the school I could never write about this without the expressed permission of the MoE.

    • Funny thing is when you read over the Express piece, it does quote the mother on the way her daughter was allowed to leave school. It is just that they decided the brown hair bit should be the lead angle.
      So that bit is consistent. The only possible new information might be what the principal was supposedly up to.
      Otherwise the story is more about how the information was presented, as I see it.

    • She should not have been sent home for that nonsense in the first place.

    • I wonder what the reason was for such rules in the first place Cedriann. That coloured hair is a distraction from learning? Or distracts others from learning?
      Hmm…

    • Well the Express story says the mother says the child left the school in the company of the stepfather but that he didn’t sign for taking the child and that annoyed the mother.
      Which is counter to what this piece says which says the child left school alone and then met stepfather later.
      The differing info provides two differing degrees of security breaches.

    • We spend time and energy on shit. You would interrupt a child’s education for a few brown highlights? Yet we can’t do anything about children being abused, neglected, passing through the system without basic literacy and numeracy skills.

    • Right. The Express repeats what the mother supposedly said. I’m satisfied that Damian’s source is credible. So there is your stand off Chabeth.

    • The irony Cedri… But the world is rich in irony. Too bad it isn’t a precious resource like oil.

    • One small infraction leads to…if the school has rules, nothing wrong in enforcing those. Life is full of rules

    • Not that I’m defending the school here but these rules weren’t arbitrarily put in place that morning. They were established well before. As we’re the consequences of breaching them. Hair colour isn’t the main debate here. Leaving the school without following protocols is!

    • So who sent her home Damian R. Scott?

    • That is the mystery here. Ranks have closed now that the spotlight is on. Ministry wants a report too. So everybody involved is now ducking.

    • So it seems the principal will take the fall? What are the consequences for him?

    • Maybe brown highlights is where everything else starts. It’s not American high school otherwise vote for no uniforms.

      I thought this would be the accepted Juliani approach. You get someone for speeding and graffiti and you start locking down the city, making progress with crime.

      I don’t know nuh. Smh

    • “Today, Broken Windows is among the most universally discredited theories in the social sciences. Study after study has concluded there is no causal link between the reduction in nuisance crimes, like turnstile jumping or aggressive panhandling, and the reduction in serious crimes, like robbery and murder.” *Giuliani http://www.forbes.com/sites/markbergen/2012/05/16/rudy-giuliani-still-egregiously-wrong-on-crime/#315a8fba1443

    • Cedriann interesting and credible though I really believe that if you stop people for minor traffic offenses you are going to eventually run into some ‘wanted’ persons. That’s only common sense. Anyone who’s going to behave bad if we give them a ticket for littering – they’re more likely to commit a road rage crime, may even be a wide beater or killer. The fact is, nit picking your population WILL get results; how do we think Singapore does it? I’m not about to convince people who want law and order to want nit picking, we will remain in the morass in which we found ourselves too bad.

      On the other hand I don’t find its constructive breaking down Juliani’s influence to absolutely nothing. And what of the increased jailing of individuals? We can’t be complaining that America’s jails are too full of people with minor offenses, is a bottomless pit for the continued slavery of mainly black people etc etc and believe that this was a (good) part of the solution of solving crime. It can’t be.

      For minor crimes, there are FINES, not jail. When we decriminalize marijuana for example and practice it’s partial legalization for example we get people to pay fines and not sit in jail overwhelming the justice system.

      So, cry down Juliani; I’m sure he wasn’t as great as they made him out to be but I’m sure he wasn’t a nobody in crime as this author suggests. It’s absolutely disingenuous.!

    • Pray tell what is coloured streaks the gateway crime to Linda? It is the rule and there are consequences to breaking rules whether we like them or not.
      But that doesn’t mean some rules are not stupid and in need of a second look or change.

    • Whether we like it or not NY has been cleaned up and I dont think people just started behaving becuz they felt it was the right rhing to do

    • Lasana then the proper thing to do is to revise the rules obviously – as long as rules are in place they must be followed or we can support people doing minor crime because our opinion is ‘it needs a second look or change’. We can break laws accordingly. Aye, it’s everyone’s own life; if they feel that the way to go, there’s the red carpet, do it.

      You might want to take ganja as one of those examples. Everyone should be able to smoke ganja because we find it silly that’s it’s illegal. We don’t need to wait for changes in laws. You can look at it very positively but whatever we do, we carry the consequences of what is current law. Talk done.

    • “The reduction in New York City’s crime rate was echoed nationally, in many cities that did not employ Quality of Life policing. In retrospect, the principal causes behind New York City’s crime drop had nothing to do with Giuliani. They included: a receding of the ’80s crack epidemic, a growth in the prison population thanks to the so-called Rockefeller drug laws, an increase in the numbers of police initiated by Giuliani’s predecessor,…”

    • Cedriann that was already in the article and I had already pointed out that one of the reasons for that reduction in crime was taking in a massive amount of black people to fill the prison which everyone knows is tantamount to a slave industry as it currently stands.

    • Linda, I suspect Cedriann was responding to Savitri with that information. And I did that laws carry penalties. And those penalties must be paid. That isn’t the issue really.
      But I think you exaggerated the matter when you suggested that hair colouring might lead to other more serious infractions.
      I would actually say it is human to want to have something individualistic about you. And uniforms are almost unnatural in a sense. So I cannot argue with the fact that she was punished according to the law. But it is a stupid law in my opinion.

    • It was not a perfect analogy that’s for sure Lasana. Have little time to put it perfectly.

    • Lasana it’s stupid especially because school girls have been doing it since my time, the early 80s – granted the coloring of hair now has far more extreme shades and colors but it’s still silly because in a world of super millions everyone especially young people are trying to be ‘unique’. Lol

      But you know it gets to be so a matter of opinion some of these things that things like this could get to be really hot topics.

      I agree that hair is a place where we probably shouldn’t go and I’d be more concerned by horribly uncombed hair but where do we draw the line because some Ras styles are quite untidy. I feel we just have to say ‘as long as you’re not carrying lice, fleas of ticks in your hair’, that is, affecting the health of others around you, we have to allow for every type of hairstyle.

      But the current situation is what it is. If people or students want differently they have a right to demonstrate for those rights.

  9. Excellent article, Damian Damian R. Scott!

  10. Good..I wasnt fooled and thought there had to be more to the story..thanks Damian

  11. Earl Best

    “..it cannot be that I have more resources than the media—financial or otherwise—to get the details in a story of this nature.”

    Scott, Since when does truth matter to the local conventional media? You don’t seriously think that this has anything to do with the media’s resources, do you? Or, more accurately, with the resources the media have at their disposal? Any connection to resources resides only in the fact that they think they can rake in more sales by distorting and sensationalising the reality.

    Profit maximisation, remember, is the name of the media game as well.