Education minister backtracks on blanket ban for earrings in schools

Children will continue to be allowed to wear studs to school, as minister makes U-turn over blanket ban on earrings

Education minister Evarist Bartolo has backtracked on a blanket ban on earrings a mere twenty-four hours after a backlash from parents.

The minister announced on social media that children will continued to be allowed to wear studs, giving special emphasis to students who had recently pierced their ears. “I have nothing against letting students wear studs, however other types of earrings are out of the question,” Bartolo said, adding that he did not wish to create new conflicts with schools.

The ban was announced in the aftermath of a Gozo school’s decision not to allow a male student enter the school with a stud.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Maltese Association of Parents of State School Students had called the blanket ban a “hasty decision” taken without consultation.

MAPSS said the decision to introduce a blanket ban was never raised in any of the meetings the association had with ministry officials, highlighting that it was “obvious” that the health and safety reasons cited by the government were a “smokescreen to justify this hasty and abused decision.”

MAPSSS said the new uniform policy announced by the ministry in June makes no mention to earrings. “The precipitousness of this decision has caused distress in a number of primary students as their parents/legal guardians were not given the time needed to explain the new directive to them.”

The association said the suddenness of the decision had caused an issue to parents who had just pierced their child’s ears and who were asked specifically not to remove the said earrings for a number of weeks, to minimise the risk of infection and to avoid the closure of any recently-done piercing.

MAPSS warned that the constant removal and placing of the earring increased the chances of infection, definitely defeating the purpose of “health reasons” mentioned in the directive issued by DG Educational Services. It also said that various health and safety policies of schools abroad, the use of retainers or flat studs that retain the piercing when earrings are removed, is becoming more common as a form of acceptable substitution with no health and safety risk.

“MAPSSS urges the Directorate for Educational Services to revoke its rushed decision and allow children to wear flat studs (retainers) which are considered a safe alternative to earrings,” the association said.

It said that education and communication are key to involving the pupils in safe practice. “A proactive approach will ensure piercings form part of a readily available school policy on personal effects, including jewellery. Clearly understood protocols will ensure students and parents are aware of school expectations.”

The association said it encouraged the Directorate for Educational Services to address immediately, “ the real health and safety issues, including, but not limited to, cases were classrooms do not meet the national minimum conditions for all schools regulations; as well as situations where school transport drivers are not respecting existing legislation such as mandatory use of seat belts and the prohibition of the use of mobile phones whilst driving.”

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