Feb 20, 2009

The worth of girlhood

A disgraceful, gender-stifling story from the Irish Times because it's not like we don't put people under enough pressure in their Leaving Cert year /sarcasm

A LEAVING Certificate student suspended from school for three months for having long hair and told he had a “girl’s hair style” has been awarded €3,500 by the Equality Tribunal for gender discrimination and victimisation.

David Knott, who was a Leaving Cert student at Dunmore Community School, Galway, in 2004/2005, missed his “mock” Leaving Cert exams and had to move to another school to sit the State exam.

The tribunal found he suffered discrimination in that male and female students at the school were not treated equally. It also found he had been victimised when the school hired a barber to inspect the length of his hair.

The complaint, brought to the tribunal by the boy’s mother Mary Knott, states that when term began on September 1st, 2004, he was told by the deputy principal Ms O’Brien that he was to cut his hair. When he did not comply he was called to Ms O’Brien’s office and she referred to his “girl’s hair style”, said he was “nothing but a trend-setter” and asked him if he “wanted to be a girl?”

Every time I discuss gender discrimination in real life, people tell me I'm overreacting and sure that sort of thing doesn't happen here any more! Firstly there is nothing inherently girly about having long hair.

It is true that many Irish schools are repressive towards students showing any sort of personality

He was then referred to the principal Mr Gilmore, who told him to cut his hair by the end of the week or go to another school. At that point he told his mother what had happened and she wrote to Mr Gilmore asking that nothing further be said to David as he was in his exam year, that she had given him permission to grow his hair and asking that he deal directly with her from then on.

Kicking a kid out of school during an exam year - that's heartless. Somebody should resign

Mr Gilmore responded by letter to Mrs Knott, saying he was concerned about the tone and content of her letter and he was referring the matter to the board of management.

Ah the old reliable "tone" excuse. It's just an attempt to sidetrack Mrs Knott's argument. Did she hurt your poor delicate feefees Mr Gilmore?

Later in September David was asked by his music teacher to play in the school band, but was told by Mr Gilmore he couldn’t unless he cut his hair. In October Mr Gilmore wrote to Mrs Knott to say that David would be suspended if he failed to cut his hair.

A board of management appeal hearing on November 16th unanimously found in favour of Mr Gilmore, who then wrote to Mrs Knott advising her that suspension would take effect from December 8th.

I wonder is hair length discussed in the school charter. It cannot be legally prescribed - that would be discrimination.

Mrs Knott appealed to the Department of Education, which ruled in her favour and said David should be readmitted if his hair was “groomed to collar length”. She took her son to a barber to cut his hair in accordance with this ruling.

Dept of Ed = FAIL

However, when David returned to school on February 23rd, 2005, a barber hired by the board of management was waiting to inspect his hair. The barber said David would need another inch off his hair. Mrs Knott said they would not comply and David enrolled in another school.

The tribunal found David had been caused “serious upset, disruption and inconvenience” during his Leaving Cert year.

So to recap because the fail is complete. A Leaving Cert student was threatened with suspension, physically inspected after a Department of Education prescribed alternation of his appearance and he had to switch schools. That is unbelievable even in today's fucked up Ireland.

During Leaving Cert, the pressure is coming from everywhere, parents, extended family, radio, tv and newspapers. All tell you the same thing - if you fuck this up you'll never amount to anything.

This school chose to call the student a girl presumably to shame him into compliance. In this culture, to be called a girl is to be weak, effeminate and possibly gay. What a wonderful and valued thing girlhood is.

The school used a gender term as a slur, as a mark of shame, as a means of humiliation. That makes me so angry. I am a girl. That school used my gender to shame, humiliate and silence a student.

I, for one, call for resignations of the school board.

h/t Bock


The Magnetic Crow said...

Beautifully written, particularly the ending.
You have to wonder what deficiencies in Mr.Gilmore's life caused the kind of driven angst he exhibited. That was a lot of trouble to go through, to damage that poor young man.

It is highly dispiriting to see yet another case of the word 'girl' being used as derogatory, as an implication of feebleness. Kudos to the mom, for fighting so hard.

Mór Rígan said...

Thanks very much TMC. I find the use of "girl" in this manner is abhorrent.

belledame222 said...

Charming. They couldn't deal that he wouldn't cut his hair (-one inch-, yet), so -he- is the cause of "disruption."

Mór Rígan said...

Classic victim blaming as usual :-(