A Larnaca high school headmaster is accused of racist behaviour after refusing to give a Syrian student his leaving certificate because his haircut did not comply with the regulations.
The incident happened during the graduation ceremony at a high school in Larnaca earlier this week when the headmaster refused to hand the student his diploma, leaving parents outraged.
Eyewitnesses said some parents stood up and shouted ‘shame’ at the headmaster, calling him out for his ‘racist behaviour’ towards the student.
Tensions grew as a fight broke out between parents, split over the incident, with the headmaster having to leave the school premises with a police escort.
The boy’s mother later told reporters that her son had gone to the graduation ceremony with a ‘bowl haircut’, which the headmaster deemed inappropriate.
She told Phileleftheros daily that it was not just her son who was ‘barred’ from the graduation ceremony, as another five students were told that their haircuts were not up to standards.
She said most of them had a migrant biography.
“The headmaster doesn’t like foreigners. Did you know that he did not allow a student from Africa to partake in his class photoshoot because he is black?
“Another student had natural red hair. He told her that her hair colour did not match the school’s policy,” said the boy’s mother.
He is the same teacher who refused to allow a student from Kenya to receive her leaving certificate last year because she had braids in her hair.
Meanwhile, the Education Ministry launched an investigation admitting that racism is an issue in schools.
Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said that while he did not know the details of the specific case, he acknowledged that: “there is racism at schools in Cyprus, but we are trying to stamp it out.”
However, the secondary teachers’ union OELMEK held back from criticising their members, arguing that the incident had to do with the implementation of school rules regarding the decent appearance of the students and specifically with the haircut.
In comments to Phileleftheros, OELMEK boss Costas Hadjisavvas said the headmaster warned students to have ‘normal hair’.
“He considered that they did not have a decent appearance on the night and informed the students that they would get their diplomas at the end of the graduation ceremony,” said Hadjisavvas.
Asked if all headmasters apply regulations with the same zeal, Hadjisavvas said that regulations regarding haircuts are not clear and that the Education Ministry is reviewing the issue.