A New Plymouth schoolgirl is claiming discrimination after being told she couldn't bring her year 11 girlfriend to the year 13 ball.
But New Plymouth Girls' High School is defending the decision, saying it has nothing to do with her gender and is a "year 13 ball, for our year 13 students".
Year 13 student Ashly Holloway started a petition on Change.org yesterday to try to sway the school's decision.
The petition had more than 3500 signatures by 12pm today.
"I'm sad to say that the New Plymouth Girls' High staff have declined me being allowed to take my girlfriend and best friend as my date to my year 13 ball," Holloway said.
"They've said she is not allowed to be my date as she is a year 11 and is a girl.
"We know of other year 11 students from other schools that are allowed to attend this ball so it is disappointing to not be able to celebrate this special moment with her purely based on age and gender.
"I'd hope that after us both working so hard for this school I would be able to bring my partner of choice along like so many others get the opportunity to."
However, principal Victoria Kerr said the decision had nothing to do with the fact Holloway's partner was female.
She knew of year 13 girls who would be attending the ball together.
"We have no problem with who they bring, if they are year 13," she said.
"It is a year 13 ball organised by our year 13 students, for our year 13 students. For New Plymouth Girls' High School students to attend the ball they must be year 13. That is the issue for us.
"If we allow year 11s from the school [to go], then what is there to look forward to when they are year 13?"
The school had occasionally allowed year 12 pupils from other schools to attend in the past, but not from the same school.
"It is not normal, but we occasionally do.
"We are not aware of [non-year 13 students attending this year]. [Holloway] has told me about a year 12 boy from another school, and I am following up on that."
Most girls had not registered their partners yet as the ball was in the middle of next term.
They wouldn't be making an exception for Holloway's partner, she said.
"Being a year 11 and being in our school, no. It is a year 13 event. It is a year 13 ball, it is for our year 13 students."