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Turku Vocational Institute bans use of bofy piercing jewellery

The prohibition is too general in character and violates students' fundamental rights

2.9.2010

Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja has criticised the Turku Vocational Institute's regulations because they include a ban on the use of body piercing jewellery during working hours. In his view, the prohibition is too general in character and violates students' fundamental rights.

Students in the Turku Vocational Institute's technology sector have been forbidden to have lip, eyebrow and other piercings on their faces as well as to wear earrings. The ban applies in the Institute's work rooms, the work environment and job experience locations. Piercing jewellery must be removed during working hours; otherwise students are not allowed to attend lessons. However, piercing jewellery underneath clothes and tongue piercings need not be removed. The use of piercing jewellery is allowed at class lessons, lessons in general subjects and theory lessons associated with vocational teaching. Occupational safety is the reason stated for the ban.

The Deputy-Ombudsman points out that a prohibition on body piercing jewellery can be justified on the ground of occupational safety and a safe learning environment. The question that he raises, however, is whether a prohibition with the same content is unavoidable in the entire technology sector. Is the occupational safety of, for example, a truck driver, a bricklayer or a process operator endangered if he has a piece of piercing jewellery in his face?

In the Deputy-Ombudsman's view, the necessity and extent of a prohibition must be assessed on the basis of the special features of each type of training.  The aspects that must be assessed are at least why the prohibition is needed in any given situation and whether students? safety can be guaranteed in some other way. An assessment of this kind had not, in the Deputy-Ombudsman's opinion been made in at least the Institute's technology sector.

As few restrictions as possible on the fundamental rights of persons who wear body piercing jewellery

Deputy-Ombudsman Pajuoja emphasises that an educational institution must, in addition to safety, take also the students' other fundamental rights into consideration. The prohibition involves an intervention in the outward appearance of students who wear piercing jewellery and thereby in their equality with students who do not wear this kind of jewellery. In addition, it restricts their right of self-determination and their privacy.

From the perspective of students' protection under the law, it is also important that the wearing of body piercing jewellery and restrictions on using it are reasoned clearly and that provision of information on the matter is good. That way, unnecessary restrictions are avoided and it can be ensured that students understand the reasons for restrictions.

The Deputy-Ombudsman has asked the Ministry of Education and Culture to inform him of what his decision had led to

When investigating the practice followed by the Turku Vocational Institute, Deputy-Ombudsman Pajuoja asked the Ministry of Education and Culture and the National Board of Education to study the use of piercing bans in also the Jyväskylä, Kouvola, Oulu and Omnia vocational institutes and the Vocational College of Vammala. He has asked the Ministry to inform him, by the end of the year, of what actions his decision has led to in the Ministry, the National Board of Education and the various educational establishments.

Additional info will be provided by Legal Adviser Mikko Sarja,
tel. +358 (0)9 432 3364