By Floyd French
(Basseterre, St. Kitts) – The Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal has affirmed the right of schools to regulate students’ appearance. The ruling came on June 2, after the Court heard the case of the Attorney General of St. Kitts-Nevis, the Ministry of Education and Anthony Wiltshire v. Kaleel Jones.
The Appeal Justices decision overturns the December, 2002, High Court decision in which Justice Baptiste ruled that a school rule requiring boys hair be cut short was discriminatory and unconstitutional.
The Court of Appeal’s decision said the school rule was not discriminatory or unconstitutional. The decision also indicated that school authorities are entitled to regulate the appearance of their students, particularly towards a conventional appearance.
The principal and staff at the Sandy Point Primary School asked that Kaleel Jones cut his hair, which was plaited. The parents refused. The Ministry of Education got involved and supported the school’s rule after teachers at the school protested with a sit-in.
Commenting on the case, Counsel for the Crown, Ms. Shelley Isles, said the ruling did not affect Rastafarians who seek exemption from the rule based on their religion.
The Ministry of Education has granted exemptions for Rastafarians before, and the practice is expected to continue.