Students are gearing up to sue the Ministry of Education, alleging that the ministry abuses their rights to their own hairstyle and planning to take the case to the Constitutional Court.
The movement against the strict hairstyle rule is led by Education for Liberation Siam (ELS) and the Association of Youth for the Abolition of Student Haircut Rules. Acting as an advisor to the movement is controversial student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, who’s a senior at Chulalongkorn University.
Netiwit is no stranger to litigation. Last year, he and seven other freshmen won their lawsuit against Chulalongkorn University and were granted THB10,000 baht each. The lawsuit was over university punishment (grade deduction) of students, who walked out of the freshman induction ceremony that required them to bow and crawl on the ground.
”The haircut policy is very unnecessary,” said Netiwit. “It affects the students mentally. It employs nationalism and conformity as a tool of subjugation. It divides the students and the teachers. The practice must be abolished.”
They want 50 students to become the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
According to Netiwit, strict haircut has been a policy of the Ministry of Education since the days General Thanom Kittikajorn ruled as Thailand’s military strongman.
The rule was later relaxed and, for the large part, left to each school’s discretion. However, there is a recent surge in stricter haircut policy, leading to social media local news backlash as students pose VDOs and photos of teachers forcing them to receive a haircut. Many times, the teachers administer the haircut themselves.
In taking the case to the Constitutional Court, Netiwit said, “We have elevated our struggle. Come and let’s have a discussion in court and see whether this is an acceptable thing to do to students.”
“Forcing students to have a certain style of haircut reduces their self-confidence” said a 17-year-old student at a prestigious public school. “When you let students feel confident about their looks, maybe they would perform better.”
“I think it’s good that students are suing the Ministry of Education, because haircut doesn’t have anything to do with studying,” he added.
According to Netiwit, the real issue is the lack of acceptance and understanding of children’s rights, even the students themselves do not know that they have rights.
“The haircut is just something to spark this movement. It’s what people feel related to. But the real issue is basic human rights. If students win on this, we won’t just stop here,” he said.