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Taiwan high school under fire for humiliating students, human rights violations

High school chair allegedly compares students to beggars, prostitutes for squatting on floor

Juang Jing Vocational High School students wearing uniforms pose with New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi. (Facebook, Juang Jing Vocational High School p...

Juang Jing Vocational High School students wearing uniforms pose with New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi. (Facebook, Juang Jing Vocational High School p...

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Following Juang Jing Vocational High School (JJVS) Chair Wang Chuan-liang’s (王傳亮) alleged comment that students resemble beggars and prostitutes when squatting, the Taiwan Youth Association for Democracy (TYAD) accused the school of violating students’ human rights through inhumane policies.

In a now-removed YouTube video, Wang told students during a school assembly that “only refugees, beggars, and whores, like the women and prostitutes working on Huaxi Street and Guangxi Street in the past, who wait to be chosen” squat by the wall, ETToday reported. Then, on the issue of why students must wear leather shoes, he allegedly said, “Students wearing fabric shoes are like valet boys at lounges and bars and girls that sell betel nut.”

During an interview, JJVS Principal Lin Shu-kuei (林淑貴) said the video did not show the whole picture, and that things were not as bad as they appeared, per ETToday. No student had filed a complaint, she said.

Deputy Minister of Education Tsai Ching-hwa (蔡清華) called Wang’s comments “obviously inappropriate” during a Legislative Yuan interpellation session on Monday (Nov. 22). The K-12 Education Administration said it would work with the New Taipei City Government to investigate the incident, and will produce a report within two months’ time as requested.

On Wednesday (Nov. 24), the TYAD reported on Facebook that many of JJVS’ school rules and policies are not only illegal but also bully and humiliate students, even infringing on their human rights.

One of the students’ main concerns pertain to uniform and hairstyle rules, under which female students are not allowed to wear anything but uniform skirts before the school declares everyone can switch to the winter uniform, according to the TYAD. Those who “need” to wear pants must provide proof of “gender identity disorder.”

While the Ministry of Education (MOE) had already ordered students to abolish restrictions on hairstyles, JJVS continued to strictly prohibit male students from dyeing their hair, getting perms, or using any kind of hairstyling product. Male students must not allow their hair to grow past their eyebrows, ears, and collar, and shave off sideburns, TYAD cited a “class letter to parents” as saying.

A student, whose identity the TYAD did not reveal, said during a military song competition, many students were specifically ordered by drill masters to cut their hair shorter. A teacher immediately got a pair of scissors and cut the students’ hair on the spot.

The TYAD added that students with naturally non-black hair are required to dye their hair black at JJVS.

However, there is more to the list of unreasonable school policies. The TYAD also listed several others, including:

  • Banning students from riding scooters to and from school even if they are of age and licensed, and issuing heavy punishment to students caught riding;
  • Making students clear out their desk drawers before leaving school every day to ensure that their school bags hold textbooks;
  • Providing only a few hundred lunches for thousands of students, forcing many to bring their own lunch or make do with instant noodles or bread;
  • Overcharging students for air-conditioning and requiring students to get the chair’s approval before turning it on.

The TYAD said after multiple fruitless attempts to report these situations to authorities, JJVS students have grown numb and helpless in the face of the school’s illegal rules. They have accepted that the rules just will not change, and that authorities will believe whatever the school tells them.

“Our classmates always joke that we are in the Country of Juang Jing, where Taiwan’s laws don’t apply, and the chair does whatever he wants. It’s ironic that he always tells us to follow a bunch of rules when his own school does not follow any of MOE’s regulations,” a student told the TYAD.

Following these allegations, the New Taipei City Education Bureau told CNA that it had instructed the school to rectify its rules regarding student uniforms but the revised rules the school submitted for approval this semester were still not up to par. The bureau will ask the school to finish relevant revisions to protect students’ rights, and its performance will be factored into private school subsidiary assessments.

CNA reported that principal Lin did not respond to calls, while the MOE has yet to respond as of 2 p.m. on Thursday (Nov. 25).