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SCHOOL SENDS HOME 'BLEACHER' on Fri Nov 27, 2009 2:41 am



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Although the guardian of a 16-year-old male student of a Portmore high school is upset that he was recently suspended for bleaching his skin, the principal of the school says the school rules clearly state it is not allowed.

The youngster, who is also a member of the school's football team, was suspended from school on November 18 and told not to return until his rightful complexion restored. His grandfather, however, has taken issue with that.

The grandfather, Willard Costley, told THE STAR that while he was not questioning the rules of the school, he believed proper steps were not taken before his grandson was sent home. He said when he went to discuss the matter at the school recently, he was told he was not listed as a guardian and therefore the child's conduct could not be discussed with him.

"He must have been doing it for a while and nobody said anything to him and secondly, they did not contact any of his relatives before he was sent home," he says.

Costley said the stipulation that he could only return after his colour comes back was essentially equal to indefinitely suspending the youngster, as no one knows how long it will take. "What if it takes 10 years to come back, he must not go to school for 10 years?" he asks.

He suggested that the school waited until elimination from the Manning Cup football competition before suspending the teen, as "they didn't have any use for him again." Being at home, he says, was not good for a young boy, who could end up using this new-found spare time in a negative way.

The principal of the school, however, told THE STAR the student was not the first to be suspended for bleaching. She said the school's rules strictly prohibit bleaching and added that this rule was sanctioned by parents.

She says the school launched a campaign against the harmful practice by educating students of the health risks. She revealed that the boy's father was spoken to and was free to come in and have further discussions.

"We sent out a suspension notice. The parent is free to come in and discuss it, but rules have to be adhered to," she says. She says the grandfather is not a registered guardian and the school's policy only permits discussions to be held with such persons, as in the past students hired adults to pose as their representatives.

She said the youngster was free to return to school when his complexion returns as close to normal as possible, and added that in some cases this does not take more then two days. "What happens is that they bleach consistently every night. They use the whitening toothpaste and curry powder, and sometimes when they are at school, you will see traces of the curry on their faces." She says if the student refrains from the practice, his skin would be back to normal within a short time.

She said it is unlikely the youngster was not spoken to before his recent suspension, as the school administration pays a lot of attention to that issue. "In fact, I thought it was dying out because a year and a half ago it was like an epidemic," she added.

The principal says she is open to talking to the boy's grandfather about the matter.

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