(Opinion) – Recently there has been a big brouhaha surrounding a decision by Mae’s school to remove a child from the school compound after he was clad in his native Amerindian wear.
If my assessment is correct, Mae’s school removed the child after noticing that the child was bare-chested, which may very well be against their policy when it comes to children clothing themselves.
However, after the parents posted their disgust at the school actions on social media, most of the people who saw the post condemn Mae’s school at all levels.
But before I could have commented, I decided to ask a friend back at the Washington Post who deals with reports of child abuse to guide me on the matter.
In the end, his conclusion was that the school was within its right to do just what they did, but should have probably handled the matter better.
To assist me in my quest to address the incident, he directed me to a Pennsylvania retired Judge whose opinion along with that of two other legal minded persons I had sought.
In a brief telephone exchange and to quickly make his point, the retired Judge asked me if a Muslim child went to school and the teacher puts the child out of the school because she was wearing her hijab, how would I view it.
I immediately said “Sir that is something that I will not condone, and should not happen in a modern society. The teacher should be sanctioned and removed from her role as a teacher forthwith”.
He laughed and then pointed me to a few articles where the same thing had occurred at three schools in France, a few in Holland (the Netherlands) and other cases in Belgium.
Now, these are three of the wealthiest, and most freedom encouraging countries in Europe.
Upon reviewing the links he provided, I discovered that if a child turns up at a public school in either country with a hijab on her head or any clothing that reflects her Islamic religion, the law requires that the child be locked out from the school forthwith. No questions ask.
If a private school also do not want the child to wear his or her religious wear to school they can similarly put the child out of the school, immediately.
As soon as I saw his references, I scrambled to research the subject matter myself further.
After all, those pointers sounded too ridiculous and untrue to me.
But what I found, shocked me.
I discovered that France, for example, placed a ban on the wearing of the Hijab in all schools, and veils in public places.
Thousands and thousands of people protested when the law was enforced, and was even arrested because that is the law.
Crying religious hatred and foul, a battery of prominent attorneys took the matter to the highest court in the European Union, and the judges there maintained the ban.
France made its case clear. If you want to wear your Hijab to school, take a flight and go somewhere else. Not in France.
Child or no child, take it elsewhere. Simple as that.
Can you imagine such a law in modern Europe?
Can you imagine if Mae’s had such a policy what would have happened to that school?
If any ordinary person should Google the Hijab ban in France, they would find that more than a dozen other countries enforce this sort of ban on the wearing of Islamic veils or coverings in school.
The law gives the school teachers the right to put your child out of the school compound, and even ban them from returning to the school if they persist, while the parents can face one year jail time and over thirty thousand Euros in fines.
For me, that is more than cruel and hurtful than asking a child to put on a shirt.
After all, I can’t look at a child and lock them out of a school building simply because they are wearing Islamic garb.
I can get how emotional that I want, and I can protest how much I want, but the people in France and Belgium would not care a damn. It’s their law.
The second set of references he pointed me to was several UN articles and modern laws which prohibits a child from exposing their chest in a public place even if it is for cultural reasons.
The United States, and the whole of Europe label this as criminal child nudity, with some countries sentencing parents to prison terms for allowing a child ;(male or female) to merely pass near to a school without their top on.
Furthermore, the laws of those countries prohibit the exposure of nipples etc to other children, and went on further to claim possible child pornography for even entertaining it, even if it is for cultural reasons.
Those laws are enforced in those very modern countries that consider exposing a child’s chest even in a school setting for cultural reasons, as child abuse and nudity.
Technically, if that child was going to a US school, the parent would have already been arrested. Culture or no culture. It’s a child.
And that is why the native Indian students in American schools cover their body on culture days, while displaying their roots.
They do not run around half naked simply because it is their culture to dress that way.
They consider modern laws and institutional rules, because the school rules say it is immoral, and many states law says it is criminal.
For me, Guyanese people need to stop looking at a story from one side, and be more objective when certain things are presented to them.
A number of American, Canadian, and EU citizens attend Mae’s school.
Do you know how simple Mae’s could have found their school badly brandished on CNN if either of those children had expressed concerns that they may have been exposed to nudity in school?
The New York Times roasted a school in front of millions of readers for even featuring a teenage boy without a shirt for 30 seconds in a children’s skit at school.
In Mae’s case, the mother of that child should simply remember that he is just a child who has to present himself in a public place, where they are other children and parents who may consider the exposure f the child’s chest as nudity, and therefore should have given the child a vest to wear.
There are also spandex tops with skin color tones that are popular now. She could have given him one of that.
In many African countries such as Malawi, it is culturally correct for women to expose their breast regardless of their age.
But how ironic would it be if a mother had dressed her daughter in traditional Malawi African wear, and argue that it is her culture, while all of her breasts are exposed to the other children at Mae’s?
Would everyone protest and say that it is her cultural wear?
On the other hand, Mae’s school should not have sent the child away just like that. They could have sourced a vest from a nearby store or simply ask his parents to bring one, because of so and so reason.
Had they done either of that, this issue would not have escalated to the level that it is now.
But in the end, Mae’s school is a private school with their own rules.
Because if France, Holland, and Belgium can put children out of their schools because they are wearing their traditional Muslim gear, why can’t Mae’s enforce a rule if they feel that the child is in the nude?
Unlike Bolivia, Peru and most other South American countries, Guyana does not thrive on tribal identity (Incas and Mayas for example) which overrides racial identity, and which has automatically allowed students in those countries to display their cultural wear in any way, without consideration for any international law or moral point that may seem to be too Western to them.
In conclusion, I am not taking sides, but do feel that Mae’s school was probably within their right to enforce the school dress code or policy. But at the same time, they failed to handle the situation correctly.
After all, we remain uncertain about the degree of negative impact that the improper handling of that issue may have on the child, in addition to the possible self-destruction that it can have on his ability to appreciate his cultural identity, in the future.
Only time will tell.