New rules spark school outrage

news: New rules spark school outrage

WEARING miniskirts, shorts, flip-flops, showing cleavage and using swear words are expressly forbidden for students at Escola C+S Colares in Sintra. In addition, pupils at the school are now to address their teachers by ‘Senhor Doutor’, following the instructions of the headmaster.

According to Portuguese daily newspaper, Correio da Manhã, the new rules are causing outrage among pupils and parents, and from child psychologists and constitutionalists.

João Rosado, a 15-year-old pupil in the eighth year, complained: “They are completely without logic. Not being able to wear shorts or flip-flops in this heat.”The teenager is one of many who consider the new rules adopted by head master, Luís Bairrão, a PE teacher at the school for some years, to be restrictive. “We had a meeting when he explained the new rules to the pupils. I think he is stupid, I prefer the previous headmaster.”

Staff are apparently instructed to advise which students are using bad language in order for them to be punished. “People cannot say anything, not even ‘damn’. If we do, a warning will be given and we will be sent home,” said Vítor Pais, also in the eighth year.

It has not been possible to confirm if this punishment is really in place, but reporters who spoke to the students discovered that many are unaware of the exact consequences if they break any of the new rules.

“I have worn a miniskirt since the meeting and no-one has said anything to me,” said 14-year-old Carlota Colares.“They advised us that we have a week to become familiar with the new rules. I think it is all exaggerated. I have teachers who do not want us to address them as ‘doutores’ – they say this is not a hospital.”

Maria de Jesus Alberto has two children at the school and is not in agreement with the miniskirt rule: “I am against this; it makes no sense. They want my children to come dressed in a kind of uniform like a private school, but this is a state school.”

Maria de Jesus only found out about the new rules through her children. “I think that the board has acted very badly. I am still waiting for them to officially inform me,” and she is worried about what punishments will be given should her children behave badly.

Unproductive, absurd and unconstitutional

José Morgado, a psychologist from the Superior Institute of Applied Psychology (ISPA) and a specialist in the study of children, was critical of the new rules saying: “I cannot see links between the clothes worn by the pupils and their behaviour in school. It is not natural to prohibit clothing, nor is it productive. There are other more important issues,” he explained.

The psychologist also warned of the dangers of banning certain clothing commenting that “clothing is part of the process of building an identity”; a strategy like this, he said, “might make pupils more rebellious”.

The National Confederation of Parents’ Association (CONFAP) is also “totally against” the rules. According to Vice-President, Fernando Gomes, the rules would only be acceptable “if parents had the freedom to place their children where they wished”. Gomes considers that “this is limiting the creativity and freedom of the young” and says that parents “must block this as it is unacceptable”.

Jorge Bacelar Gouveia, a constitutional lawyer, is clear in his thoughts on the subject. “Regulations of this kind are unconstitutional, as they do not respect the right to a personality and are preventing freedom of expression”. “It is strange,” he says, that a state school would “adopt rules that go against the country’s constitution”. He does point out that the view of private schools, where children wear a school uniform, is often that it negates any negative comparisons being made with regards to clothing, that could arise due to pupils’ different socio-economic backgrounds.

Education Ministry unaware of situation

Meanwhile, the Ministry for Education is apparently unaware of the recent happenings at Escola C+S de Colares. But a source from the ministry underlined that internal rules at schools, which establish the rules of conduct, duties and rights of staff and teachers, must be approved by the school board (this is made up of members of the teachers council, executive council, teachers, the local council, parents and students) and that it must respect the principles set out in the Constitution. Furthermore, it is the Direcções-Regionais de Educação (Regional Education Directives) which is responsible for adherence to internal regulations.

Some support for headmaster

Despite the controversy, the headmaster, Luís Bairrão, who has long been known as a strict disciplinarian, has some supporters among parents. “I believe he is motivated by good intentions”, “he is the best teacher the school has” and “those people who don’t like him are people without morals” were just some of the comments.

Since receiving the initial information about the new rules at Escola C+S Colares in Sintra, The Resident has learned that many students, mostly from the fifth and sixth years, staged a protest by coming to school dressed in miniskirts and shorts, thereby openly flouting the new rules. Headmaster Bairrão, meanwhile, is keeping steadfastly quiet about the situation.