Gay students at four schools in Auckland have been stopped from taking same-sex partners to school balls until they sign contracts declaring that they are homosexual.
The Human Rights Commission is aware of school policies barring pupils who want to take same-sex partners, but forcing students to sign a contract could pass a legal threshold.
Serafin Dillon, Rainbow Youth education officer, declined to reveal the identity of schools involved, as she believed a "name and shame" campaign would only further ostracise the gay youth.
Forcing homosexual students, perhaps already struggling with their sexuality, to sign a contract would only increase "the ridicule and the whispers" experienced by many teenagers, Dillon said.
"If this was in the workplace it would be discrimination, and it would be unheard of," she told a Wellington newspaper. "But because it's a school they think they can somehow get away with it.
"It's just another way of keeping young people in the closet. It acts as a mechanism of exclusion."
Dillon said the contract signing happened across all schools including co-ed, single sex, private and public.
"It would have to be a pretty liberal school for someone to bring their partner of the same gender."
Rainbow Youth is now holding an "Alternative Ball" next Saturday for gay and straight youth.
Dr Craig Immelman, a psychiatrist, said the contract sounded outrageous.
"It should not matter in this day and age whether or not you take a same-sex partner to a function or not," he said.
Such behaviour could be detrimental to the confidence of young people already struggling with their sexuality, Immelman said.
He found it hard to understand whether the school would be acting in the best interests of the students concerned.
Immelman said the practice could enforce gay stereotypes and cause the students to feel disenfranchised and marginalised.
Papatoetoe High School principal Peter Gall said the school allowed pupils to take same-sex partners to the ball, but he did not know how many took up the offer.
He said any outside guests to the ball were vetted by the school.
"At the end of the day school balls are not compulsory, and schools are at liberty to determine what rules they have."
Gilbert Wong, spokesman for the Human Rights Commission, said any complaints received by it would be assessed as to whether they reached a legal threshold.
"If you were applying for a job and were asked to disclose your sexuality that would be likely to breach employment law."
- ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NZPA