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SMC’s Board Issues Statement on Grooming Incident

St. Mary’s College campus
St. Mary’s College

The Board of Management of St. Mary’s College has responded to calls that the learning institution was wrong in calling on a student to cut his hair, because his current hairstyle was not in keeping with the school’s hair grooming requirements.

The student’s father is taking the matter to court claiming that his son was denied entry into his classroom on the first day of the reopening of school (September 5) for the academic year 2022/2023.

According to the boy’s father he was told his son could not enter the classroom unless he cut his hair.

Chairman of the College, Anthony Bousquet issued a statement Thursday on behalf of the board. Here is the full statement:

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“Step together…”

These words are more than merely the opening salvo of our beloved school song. No; these first two words are a call to a team mentality and an equivalent call to reducing the vanity of thinking solely about “me”. Our Alma Mater, St. Mary’s College, offers us a lifelong feeling of togetherness, a firm foundation, a large team. Adults will no doubt agree that it is easier to think about “me” than think about a team or unity. For any team to survive it must have certain rules in place. Yes; and certain traditions which may not make any sense to the outside world are kept.

All great institutions have rules.

All great institutions are about an underlying team discipline.

St. Mary’s is a great institution.

Saint Mary’s is not merely a school. It is an iconic learning institution built on the shoulders of many great St. Lucians. The rules of the school did not destroy the creativity of our greats – Sir Derek won a Nobel prize in a discipline that calls for the ultimate in creativity and self-expression; and he followed the rules. The United States, from whom we now secure many of our cultural influences, is a country known for individuality and the preservation of rights. It is also a country with a myriad of social safety nets. Yet, to enter the best academies your hair must be cut; even in the US, the need for team is acknowledged and revered.

We in St. Lucia do not have the safety nets of the developed world. The youth, in fact everyone, on this small rock at 14 ° N must have a level of discipline which surpasses that of a developed country. The establishment of and adherence to rules help.

Inner discipline must be instilled in the youth, in our “Men in Training”. The boys at SMC are among the best we have academically. However, it is not about the more than 80% in CPEA, no; it is a deeper sense of the need for growth in the human virtues — prudence, fortitude, temperance, justice — these should help us move to self-mastery and joy. It calls for the boys to sometimes take the more difficult and disciplined path — it is a path of training.

That being said, we are not advocating that we should not examine our traditions; the renouncing of the “Calot” came about as a result of an introspection. Every institution must conduct regular introspections. St. Mary’s must therefore examine itself. The methodology for this introspection has many avenues. First there are the principal and teachers. There is an active Parent Teachers Association in place which acts as an interface between parents, teachers and the Board of Management. The school also has an active Students’ Council which brings forward the grievances of the student body and advocates for meaningful change. The Board of Management is readily accessible and attempts to also bring forward the interests of all our institution’s stakeholders.

It is in light of the availability of these numerous avenues that we, the Board of Management, are disappointed at the manner in which this most well-known grievance has been brought forward. Our young Samarians are trained in the manner in which grievances are brought forward. Therefore, first breaking a rule, then pushing the breaking of this rule in the public domain, prior to pursuing any of the aforementioned grievance avenues, is not in keeping with what our Samarians are trained to do.

This simply cannot be done in the world of work!

Do note with interest that St. Mary’s College’s rule book explicitly states the school’s regulations governing hair. Before a parent decides to register their son at St. Mary’s College, they are made aware of the regulations for students. By registering, they agree to follow those regulations.

All male students are accommodated at St. Mary’s College regardless of their socio-economic status, religion or race. In keeping with our ethos to accommodate and provide holistic support to our students, the school always employs flexible measures for students who have legitimate written excuses. All we ask is that parents and students respect and follow the rules of the school as they had agreed to upon entry into the school thus ensuring proper conduct and a conducive learning environment for all students. Our parents in question are fully aware of the said rules. The issue of grooming was raised with the young Samarian’s parents in the last academic year. The parents were advised of all interventions which may be needed relative to their son.

It is unfortunate that this dialogue was abandoned in favour of a more “public hearing”. This “public hearing” has been characterized by comments which are fraught with distortions and falsehoods.

The young Samarian was not denied entry to the class unless he cut his hair. No; the young Samarian can keep his hair but must just cover it for entry into class — like all other students with long hair. No; this rule is not directed exclusively at boys of a particular race. All boys, regardless of race, are required to cut their hair should it be above a recognizable height or cover their hair for entry into class — ALL BOYS. There have been many proposed solutions. One advocates that hair must simply “not be a distraction…” This is clearly subjective; any style can be distractive to any person.

Others call for hair to be groomed. This may be so but there will be a cry in the near future asking “why should hair be combed?”‘ “It is my hair and I clean it, I don’t wish to comb it! It is my right!” We could certainly think of other solutions.

St. Mary’s offers a path out of all of this, everyone, regardless of race, must cut their hair or cover for instruction. How can this rule be discriminatory against anyone — ALL ARE TREATED THE SAME. Further, recognize that SMC has taken any move to a fashion show out of the school — any boy can put on any desired fashion show on weekends under the auspices of his family.

The Board of Management calls on all parents and the general public, who our boys will eventually serve, to recognize what we are trying to do at SMC. Recognise that this “rock” needs boys who are at a higher level of discipline than those in the developed world. Our teachers believe this! Our teachers believe this to be important! The Board and most parents believe this! Our boys must learn this!

At this time, the board is focused on completing the strategic plan for the school and implementing its vision for 2021 and beyond. In this plan much introspection will be and has been undertaken. A natural part of this introspection is an examination of all rules.

Currently, the school is preparing students for the upcoming inter school sporting activities. We are making innovative strides in educating our boys as we are proud to announce the introduction of SAT classes into our form five curriculum; a definite benefit for those who are desirous of matriculating into universities in the United States. The school is also working assiduously with partners in Trinidad and Tobago to introduce robotics to our students in January 2023.

St. Mary’s College undertakes these initiatives because our boys are St. Lucia’s elite forces – they must NEVER be elitist. – but they are called to be the elite “soldiers” of St. Lucia. Our nation must expect much because the boys have been given much — they will deliver by the grace of God!

These “sterling sons”, these “Men in Training”, must know rules and recognize that the collective is stronger than an individual. Some without fathers, some without active parents, all need a team. Sometimes the requirements of the team may squeeze our individuality but will never destroy our creativity.

“Step TOGETHER….” not mere words.

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