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Challenging Restricted Hair Color and Uniform Policies in Schools

By: Victor Zhang

In recent years, a growing number of students have raised their voices in protest against restrictive hair color and uniform policies implemented by schools like Victorian high school and Melbourne’s Mordialloc College. These policies, often intended to maintain discipline and uphold traditional norms, have sparked debates and ignited a spirited movement among students advocating for individuality and self-expression.

One of the primary reasons why students rebel against restrictive hair color and uniform policies is to counter the suppression of their individuality. Adolescence is a time when young people are exploring their identities and seeking ways to express themselves. They can wear different clothes and dye their hair to support causes they are passionate about. For example, KIDSNEWS wrote, “A year 10 student at Melbourne’s Mordialloc College has been ejected from class and isolated from his peers over his brightly coloured [colored] hair. The student dyed his hair bright colours [colors] in recent months to make a statement about social issues he is passionate about, including youth mental health.” By enforcing strict dress codes and limiting hair color options, schools have inadvertently stifled students' ability to showcase their unique personalities. Consequently, students view these policies as an infringement upon their freedom of expression and a hindrance to their self-discovery.

Uniform policies often fail to acknowledge the diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds of students. A standardized dress code may overlook the cultural attire and practices of various ethnic groups, inadvertently promoting assimilation over diversity.

Moreover, uniforms can be a financial burden for families struggling to meet their basic needs. According to ConnectUS, “They can be an additional cost. If children go to school 5 or 6 days a week, they needs[need] at least 2-3 sets of uniforms…In relation to the point above, if the family can’t afford several sets of uniforms, they may have to wash the uniforms when the kids get home. This can be tiresome and takes away time that could have been spent on schoolwork or rest.” By enforcing rigid uniform policies, schools may inadvertently create an environment that reinforces social inequalities and leaves certain students feeling excluded or marginalized. This is also proven by ConnectUS, who wrote, “Most uniforms are not designed according to the cultural dress of a population or they represent only one culture. Also, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender students may become confused if they should wear a uniform that represents their inner sexual orientation or their external gender.”

The insistence on conformity can have negative psychological effects on students. Being forced to conform to a particular appearance, including restricted hair color options, can lead to a sense of alienation and reduced self-esteem. ConnectUS wrote, “Learning how to express yourself is a right … By not allowing kids to show their individuality through the way they dress, they may feel oppressed and discouraged to develop their own personality.” This shows that alienation and reduced self-esteem can happen. Moreover, students may perceive these policies as an implicit message that their personal preferences and individuality are not valued within the school community.

Rather than stifling students' individuality, schools should recognize the importance of fostering creativity and individual expression. By allowing students to experiment with their appearance, including hair color choices, schools can provide an environment that celebrates diversity and encourages personal growth.

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