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Mum's anger after Northern Ireland grammar school puts son in isolation over 'inappropriate' haircut

By Claire O'Boyle

Furious mum Sandra Miskimmin has hit out at a Co Fermanagh grammar school for putting her son in isolation over his haircut.

Along with three other boys, Henry was sent to isolation at Enniskillen Royal Grammar School last Friday when teachers deemed his hairstyle inappropriate.  The 14-year-old came home from school upset and told his mum the school had said it "wasn't the image the school wanted to portray to the public".

Read More: Northern Ireland school puts pupil in isolation over haircut

"Henry is a good boy, and I'm a strict mum about things like that, which is why this is so frustrating," said Sandra (43). "He had his hair cut on Thursday and asked me if I thought it was okay, and I did. I told him, 'Sweetheart, it's fine.'

"When he was getting it cut, Henry was worried the barber was going a bit short, so he stopped him going any further. He's aware of the rules and he certainly wouldn't go out of his way to break them."

But what angered mum-of-three Sandra even more was the method of punishment - and the fact she wasn't informed by the school that her son had been taken out of classes.

"If Henry and I didn't have a good relationship, I might never have known," she said. "He came home on Friday very upset and told me what happened. It weighed on him all weekend as he didn't know if he'd be back in isolation again on Monday, and in the end he was. The poor thing had spent the weekend hoping his hair would grow.

"Isolation is a horrible punishment. It means they are taken away from their year group, put in a room with one supervisor and the work from their various classes is given to them. Henry is in his pre-GCSE year, so it might have been the situation that my son was without proper classroom teaching for a number of days without my knowledge."

Football-mad Henry, who plays for local team Ballinamallard, did not tell his mum he was back in isolation on Monday until he got home from school that day. "I could just see from the way he was walking that he was upset again, that they'd put him back in isolation," Sandra said.

"The kids aren't even allowed their break or lunchtimes with their peers. I was annoyed because the school use this draconian form of punishment and they hadn't even let me or Henry's dad, Patrick, know." Conscious that she didn't want to overreact, Sandra, from Enniskillen, put a picture of Henry's haircut on her Facebook page to gauge reaction from friends before complaining to the school the next day.

"They're annoyed I put this on Facebook, but I was honestly confused at their reaction. I wanted to see if I just wasn't seeing what they were seeing because I'm Henry's mum before taking it any further. It just picked up from there - and a lot of people agreed with me."

When Henry went to school on Tuesday, expecting to be back in isolation, he was told he would be back in normal classes.

"I think they had seen it on social media," said Sandra. "The reason I put it there was because I am not a reactive person. I think things through before I make any sort of move and I wanted to be sure I was being reasonable. This is not parents against teachers, or me against the school. But I think there was a major overreaction in this case.

"According to Henry, there were three other boys in isolation with him and all three were in there because of their haircuts. I think taking children away from their peers, and more importantly their classrooms, is far too much - especially if their haircuts are as inoffensive as Henry's."

On the school's website under its uniform guidelines for boys, it states "hair should be above the collar and hairstyles should be tidy and unobtrusive. Hair should not be conspicuously coloured or shaven to extreme i.e number one".

When contacted for comment, principal Elizabeth Armstrong, told the Belfast Telegraph it was an "internal school matter", adding they are dealing with the parent who contacted them.

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