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Date: To: From:

July 12, 2012 Commissioner Ulpiano P. Sarmiento Santos, Danika Marie S. Coro, Romiel Palacpac, Juan Miguel


Legal Opinion on the authority of schools in prescribing the length of hair and

hairstyles of students and imposition of disciplinary actions in case of violation

Dear Commissioner:

This answers the query about the right of educational institutions in imposing and prescribing hair length and particular hairstyles over its students and whether such policy violates any right of the latter.

DISCUSSION AND ARGUMENTS: Educational institutions, particularly private schools, have the authority to maintain school discipline. As stated in Section 102, Article XXI of Manual of Regulations for Private Higher Education of 20081 -

Every higher education institution shall maintain discipline inside its campus as well as within the immediate surroundings of the school premises. An

CHED Memorandum Order No. 40

institution shall also exercise disciplinary authority over students outside its campus, and beyond school hours, term or year in the instances as follows: 1. Where school policies or regulations were violated; and 2. Where the misconduct involves or affects a students status or the good name and reputation of the school.

For schools to have a proper system, its students must likewise conform to the conditions and policies set forth by the former. Implementation of school discipline is incidental to the mission of every educational institution to develop moral character and personal conduct of its students. Moreover, rules on discipline are indispensable to the successful management of the college2. In the case of Furutari vs. Ewigleben3, the United States District Court ruled

College authorities should be free to enforce fair and reasonable disciplinary regulation necessary to the orderly functioning of the educational institution.

The Constitution also mandates

They (educational institutions) shall inculcate patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, teach the rights and duties of citizenship, strengthen ethical and spiritual values, develop moral character and personal discipline, encourage critical and creative thinking,

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Ateneo de Manila University vs. Capulong; 222 SCRA 644 297 F. Supp 1163

broaden scientific and technological knowledge, and promote vocational efficiency.4

However, the constitutional authority granted to educational institutions is not without limit. One of the requirements is that rules shall constitute reasonableness. Rules must be based on the achievement of the schools mission and must be motivated by reason and humanity and that its implementation must be done in good faith. A recommendation done by Michigan State Board of Education states

The rules must: 1. provide notice of what conduct is prohibited or permitted; 2. be reasonably understandable to the average student; 3. be rationally related to a valid educational purpose; 4. be precise so as not to prohibit constitutionally protected activities; 5. must provide students with notice of potential consequences for violating rules; 6. the type of punishment specified in the policy must be within the expressed or implied authority of the school to utilize; 7. punishment must be of reasonable severity; 8. a copy of rules and procedures must be disseminated to all students.5

In case problem arises in the implementation and enforcement of school policies, Hebert v. Ventetuolo6 asserted two principles: first is the general rule that there should be no judicial

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Section 3(2), Article XIV, The 1987 Constitution nd A Recommended Guide to Students Rights and Responsibilities in Michigan; 2 Ed. (May 1982), p. 41

interference with the internal affairs, rules and by-laws of a voluntary association; and second, is the exception to that rule: that the Courts may examine the internal rules of a private association and their application to its members when their enforcement would be arbitrary, capricious or constitute an abuse of discretion.

Tedeshi v. Wagner College7 also stated that the courts shall not interfere with the finding of the school as to the actions filed for students violation of its regulations, except in the cases when: 1. conclusion is a finding grounded on speculation; 2. inferences made are manifestly mistaken, absurd, or impossible; 3. there is a grave abuse of discretion; 4. there is a misapprehension of facts; and 5. the school officials, in arriving at the finding, goes beyond the issues of the case and the same are contrary to the administration of the parties or the evidence presented.

One of the contentions of those who are penalized by haircut regulations is constitutional rights of students shall not be penalized by schools. This is where conflicts arises. One of the inherent rights of every person is the freedom of expression, as articulated in Section 4, Article 3 of the 1987 Constitution, to wit:

Section 4. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.

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480 A. 2d 403 (R.I. 1984) 49 N.Y. 2d, 652, 427 N.Y.S. 2d, 760, 404 N.E. 2d 1302 (1980)

Part of this freedom of expression is the freedom of every person to choose how he or she wants to appear to other persons. This includes the issue at bar: the preference to wear a specific haircut.

In the case of Gorman vs. St. Raphael Academy8, the primary issue was: may a private school admit a male student with hair growing to a point on his back well below the bottom of his shirt collar at a time when the school had no prohibition against such a hairstyle and about which no adverse official comment was made at the time of admission; and then, may that school later adopt a rule mandating that a male students hair be grown no longer that the bottom of his shirt collar and threaten to expel the student for not conforming his haircut to school regulation?

The facts of the instant case are as follows:

Russell Gorman III entered St. Raphael Academy. During his application, his taking of the schools admission examination and subsequent interviews, school official made no comment whatsoever to the hairstyle that Gorman was sporting. After sometime, the school official asked Gorman to cut his hair. Furthermore, non-compliance to their order would result to the latters expulsion. Gorman went to the Court and prayed for an injunction, ref raining the school from posing the penalty of expulsion to Gorman. Also, Gorman contended that there was nothing in the Student Handbook indicating any policy or regulation as to students proper haircut. The following school year, the school administration adopted a hair code, stating

853 A. 2d 28 (R.I. 2004)

All students must keep their hair clean and well groomed. xxx A boys hair may not be longer than the bottom of his shirt collar. xxx Student who does not conform to these regulations are subject to disciplinary action and possible dismissal if the problems persist.

The principal of the school contended that the new haircut regulations promote a culture of calmness and order in the school. However, the court found that nothing suggested a clear relationship between ones haircut to the attainment of the schools goals stated in their mission statement. The court ruled in favor of Gorman and found the new haircut policy to be implemented by St. Raphael Academy in bad faith.

However, in the case of Richards v. Thurston9, the court sided with the school. Robert Richards was suspended from Marlboro High School at the beginning of his senior year because he refused to cut his hair. The principal admitted that there was no written school regulation governing hair length or style but contends that students and parents were aware that "unusually long hair" was not permitted. Richards argued that there existed a lack of any specific regulation authorizing suspension for unusual hair styles. The Court however did not accept the opportunity. It ruled that Richards and his parents should be aware that unusually long hair was not permitted. The Court also held that it would not wish to see school officials unable to take appropriate action in facing a problem of discipline or distraction simply because there was no preexisting rule on the books. Furthermore, though the Court recognized the constitutional right of freedom of expression, it rejected the notion that plaintiff's hair length is of a sufficiently communicative character to warrant the full protection of the said right. The said right was not intended to denigrate the understandable desire of people to be let alone in the

424 F. 2d 1281 (1970)

governance of those activities which may be deemed uniquely personal. The court believed that this form of freedom of expression established a sphere of personal liberty for every individual, subject to reasonable intrusions by the state in furtherance of legitimate state interests. The Court, however, did not mean to say that the governance of the length and style of one's hair is necessarily so fundamental as those substantive rights already found implicit in the "liberty" assurance of the Due Process Clause, requiring a "compelling" showing by the state before it may be impaired. Yet "liberty" seems to be an incomplete protection if it encompasses only the right to do momentous acts, leaving the state free to interfere with those personal aspects of our lives which have no direct bearing on the ability of others to enjoy their liberty.

CONCLUSION: From the foregoing facts, applicable laws and statutes, it is our opinion that the question will be in favor either of the school or the student, depending on the situation of the case.

1. Implementation of haircut policies are not unconstitutional and not in violation of any inherent right of a student, per se. It is upon the educational institutions to prove that implemented disciplinary regulations are constitutional and is not violative of any right.

2. While the schools enjoy the right to foster their educational objectives employing means that permit considerable discretion on the part of school authorities and teachers, there are number of state imposed laws to which the educational institutions must adhere. In case of violation, the favor will be on students.

3. So long as the school is able to suggest a clear relationship between ones haircut and the goals stated in its mission statement, the school has the right to impose penalties in case of violation thereof.

4. Private schools may change any of their rules, provided that these rules, particularly policies, shall be enacted in good faith and not bespeak the arbitrary or capricious.