Officials from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport say they are investigating the disciplinary action of a teacher at Samdech Techo Hun Sen Sampov Loun High School in Battambang province, who used a set of clippers to cut the already short hair of several male.

The investigation was launched following a flurry of negative reactions to pictures of the teacher’s actions that were shared to social media on January 23.

As of January 24, the post on the official Facebook page of the high school had been shared more than 22,000 times and received more than 12,000 comments, the majority of them negative.

One Facebook user, Nan Veng, wrote that teachers should stop disciplining their students in such old fashioned ways. The author went on to say that teachers know full well that a person’s hair style does not determine whether they are good or bad.

“Teachers were once young, but they seem have forgotten what it is like. They should be able to talk to their students and treat them as equals. As teachers, they should have high moral standards, but this makes it look like they have forgotten those, too!” it added.

“Students should not be under this much pressure. A school should not feel like a prison, and they should not be living in fear. The morality and discipline of a person, or how hard they work, is not based on what their hair looks like. If a person doesn’t want to study, even shaving their head won’t make them,” commented “Thing Y”.

“In the pictures I saw, these boys’ hair was already very short and tidy – it didn’t even cover their ears!” she added.

Bun Channimol, the owner of the Sastra Film Production company, also joined the debate, suggesting that disciplinary action should be carried out in a more contemporary way. It should focus on reasoning and guidance, rather than intimidation or public humiliation.

She said research from Harvard University found that the practice of excessive discipline not only failed to create good habits in students, but also negatively affect their lives in the future.

“I do not have much experience in education, but I have read many articles and I am a mother. I understand that discipline is necessary for education, but the application of discipline should depend on the motivation of the perceived wrongdoing. There should be mutual respect between teachers and students,” she added.

She concluded that she was merely offering her personal opinion, and could not say for sure who was right or wrong in this situation.

In December last year, the high school posted a notice which explained its policy on the length male students must keep their hair.

Education ministry spokesman Ros Sovacha told The Post that the Ministry was investigating the case, but was currently awaiting a response from the high school’s management committee.

“In general, the management of each educational institution deals with its own challenges. If necessary, they can cooperate with the provincial education departments, which are in turn administered by the ministry,” he said.

Ung Borath, chief of cabinet at the ministry, is in charge of investigating the case.

“The management of the school are also dealing with the case, and I cannot speak as to the details of the investigation,” he told The Post.

The Battambang Provincial education department on January 24 it issued a clarification.

“On January 23, the teacher in charge of discipline and the youth council at the high school in question carried out inspections of students’ clothes, hair, makeup and nails,” it said via a social media post.

“It was discovered that several students’ hair did not meet the conditions stipulated by the school’s rules. The teacher in charge of discipline therefore took action,” it added.

The department also explained that the school has been implementing this policy for many years. At the beginning of each school year, the school invites parents or guardians of students to discuss the rules and regulations of the school.