Schools can no longer penalise students with “locs, twists, plaits, afros, cornrows, weaves or braids” thanks to a new “National School Hair Code”, which takes effect nationwide from the new academic year in September 2023.
The decision was announced by the Ministry of Education (MOE) after “discussions with the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), Denominational Boards, National Principals’ Associations, the National Parent Teachers Association (NPTA), Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) and other education stakeholders”.
As a result, The National School Code of Conduct “will be amended to include a National School Hair Code, which will provide broad guidelines for Principals in the development of individual School Hair Rules”.
The Government’s announcement follows the decision by Trinity College (Moka) to block some students from participating fully in their graduation, due to the school’s rules on attire.
From September, schools are not allowed to contradict the Ministry’s position on hairstyle, although respective schools are permitted to make their own rules on “hair ornaments”.
The National School Hair Code states:
- Students shall maintain neat and clean hair at all times.
- Hair that crosses shoulder length should be tied back at all times for safety reasons.
- Locs, twists, plaits, afros, cornrows, shall be allowed for all students, in compliance with individual School Hair Rules.
- Female students shall be allowed to wear hair extensions, including weaves and braids, in compliance with individual School Hair Rules.
- Wigs and dyed or coloured hair for students are not allowed. In exceptional cases, as determined by the school principal, approval may be granted to students.
- Hairstyles that obstruct the normal view of others are not allowed, except for religious reasons.
- Eyebrow markings and eyelash extensions are not allowed.
- Haircut parting designs should be simple. Intricate designs are not allowed.
- Hair ornaments should be in compliance with individual School Hair Rules.
The Ministry further asked schools to determine their School Hair Rules—which must align with the National School Hair Code—by October 2023. However, it spelt out a process by which schools could create such policies:
- Individual schools are mandated to form a committee to determine their School Hair Rules, will comprise representatives of students, staff and parents.
- A copy of their proposed School Hair Rules must be submitted to the line school supervisor before they are effected.
- All parents and students should be sensitised by the school’s administration about the implementation of the School Hair Rules before they are effected.
- During the intervening period between the coming into force of the National School Hair Code and the School Hair Rules of an individual school, no student should be penalized on the basis of a hairstyle—once they are in conformity with the National School Hair Code.
The MoE vowed to send the relevant Circular Memoranda to principals regarding these matters.