The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shorn, for letting hair down

Gwalior, July 3: Seventh-grader Jaya Prada had her hair chopped off in front of her classmates today for daring to wear it loose.

The 13-year-old, back in school after the summer vacation, had failed to do her holiday homework. Headmistress Anita Aggarwal, who later said she hated the girl’s hairstyle, fished out scissors from her bag to hand “exemplary punishment”.

Gwalior collector R.K. Srivastava said: “I have suspended the headmistress, Anita Aggarwal, the teacher responsible for this act.”

Jaya and her parents came to meet him with a complaint this afternoon, Srivastava said. “I immediately ordered an inquiry and set up a committee of officials who informed me that the incident had indeed taken place. When I summoned the headmistress, she admitted her misdeed.”

Teachers at Government Girls Middle School said Anita had earlier cut the hair of other girls who did not wear it in two plaits. “She was in the habit of punishing in this bizarre manner. Otherwise why would she keep a pair of scissors in her bag'” a teacher said.

Summoned by the collector, Anita “confessed” she intensely disliked Jaya’s “disruptive hairstyle” and had tried to discipline her.

Jaya usually wore her hair loose, like the actress she shared her name with.

By evening, Anita had toughened her stand and said she would move court against the suspension.

“The authorities have little idea of the hardship we face every day in looking after girls in middle school. The attendance is less than 20 per cent, so I go door to door to pull girls out of their houses. I take four classes a day because of acute shortage of teachers. We keep vigil on all the girls of impressionable age as there are two government-run boys’ schools in the vicinity,” she said.

But even among Gwalior’s conservative residents, who shared Anita’s views on how girls should wear their hair, the teacher’s actions found no support. The headmistress should have called Jaya’s mother and discussed the homework and the hair with her, neighbours of the teenager said.

If she wanted to act tough, she could have even insisted that the mother take the girl back and not send her to school till her hair was tied, they suggested.

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