DENBIGH High School student Raejean Porter on Wednesday received overwhelming support from her peers when she suggested that teachers who are improperly attired at schools be reprimanded by school administrators, since they were potentially impacting on their students' ability to learn.
Porter, one of several students who made presentations during the Child Research Conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston, discussed the issue in a research paper entitled, "Investigating the impact of teacher's dress on students between the ages of 12 and 17 attending a rural high school".
"Since education is a basic human right which is critical to a child's development, we must consider the social signal sent by the attire of the teachers which impact or may impact students' education," she said.
Following her presentation, Porter recommended that more effort be made in enforcing the Ministry of Education's dress code for teachers, in the same way dress codes are being enforced for students.
"At my school, a student who comes in a skirt that is above her knees will be reprimanded or given a suspension. So just like how we can be reprimanded, teachers, too, should be reprimanded based on their attire," she said to thunderous applaud from policymakers and students from both corporate and rural schools who packed the large conference room for day two of the annual research conference.
At the start of the school year in September, scores of students at the Steer Town Academy in St Ann were turned away for improper dressing, sparking a national debate as to whether students who are dressed inappropriately should be turned away from classes.
Among those who commented on the move was Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, who, during a presentation in Parliament a few days later, noted that "those (supporting the correct) standards of dress and (decrying) the tight pants and the short skirts should be supported as an important step towards resurrecting discipline in these institutions".
Porter said that while her research paper concluded that the attire of teachers did not adversely affect the ability of their children to learn, it did impact teacher-to-child relationship.
"The data from this research shows that the way students perceive teachers is just as critical because students will act and respond based on their perception," said the teen, who implored teachers to pay careful attention to their attire.
Dalaine Marriott from Dunoon Park Technical High School, in her presentation, said that children took strong objection to any legislation that would curtail their ability to go on social websites, although she admitted that students spent long hours on these sites, even while at school. On the other hand, McGrath High School student Rushard Blake created a more sombre mood with his presentation on street children in urban Jamaica as he brought to the fore an issue that policy-makers continue to struggle with.