Catholic girls' school's strict ball rules: No cleavage, no backless dresses, no taking off shoes and your date must be serious

By Lynley Bilby, Catherine Gaffaney

An online petition is calling for St Dominic's College to rethink their school ball policy. Photo / Dean Purcell
An online petition is calling for St Dominic's College to rethink their school ball policy. Photo / Dean Purcell

The principal of an Auckland Catholic girls' college at the centre of a dress code revolt has defended the school's rules for its upcoming ball.

St Dominic's College in Henderson has banned students from wearing dresses with plunging necklines, low backs and leg splits above the knee at its seniors ball in July.

Several students have expressed their anger over the policy, as they have already bought their dresses. One told the Herald they had to get their ball outfits approved by the associate principal.

An online petition calling on the principal to rethink the policy claims the restrictions were put in place in order to maintain high standards at the school.

According to the petition, the rules stipulate:

"1. A split on the dress can only be up to the knee
"2. The back of the dress cannot go below the armpit
"3. There must be no cleavage AT ALL
"4. You cannot take off your shoes no matter how sore your feet get
"5. You must be in a serious relationship in order to bring a ball date We understand that some dresses can look inappropriate but this is taking it too far."

However, the school's principal Carol Coddington, said the ball rules reflected the school's responsibility to its students, and the fact that most attending would be under 18.

"In the 20 years that I have been principal, we have been proud of the way that almost every girl attending these functions has presented herself," she said.

"However, with the recent focus on school balls, we thought it was timely [to] have a discussion about rules around our school's ball six weeks ahead of the event."

Several students had shown senior management their dresses in the past week and none had been turned down. One student who was yet to buy her dress had been advised it might need to be slightly altered.

Cocktail-length dresses and "appropriate" pantsuits were added to the dress code for the first time this year.

The suggestion students had to be in "a serious relationship" in order to bring a partner was not well phrased, Mrs Coddington said.

"What we have told our students is that if they bring a partner to the ball they are personally responsible for that partner's behaviour. If that is inappropriate, they will both be asked to leave."

One Year 13 student, aged 17, said the school held a meeting last week about the new dress code for the ball.

"We have a new [associate] principal who has given us new rules about the dress code. There's rules about the front, the back and the length of the slit. It's all different from last year so we're pretty bummed."

Students who had bought dresses prior to the dress code announcement had to take photos of the front and back and get them approved by the associate principal, she said.

"There's a lot of student pressure to do something about it. My parents don't really care but some parents have written into the school about it."

The ball will be held in July with its brother school, Liston College.

The student said they were only allowed to take male partners from Liston. Same sex couples were allowed.

Another Year 13 student, who asked not to be named, said she believed some dresses were "a bit out there" but disagreed with all the rules because the ball was "meant to be fun". The 17-year-old said some parents were angry because they had already bought dresses. The school had not mentioned compensation for students who had already bought a dress which didn't fit the code. She believed students were expected to simply buy another dress.

Another student said: "We were told not to take our shoes off because it would look messy for everyone there but there won't be anyone there but students and teachers."

Students were told they couldn't wear a dress with a low back because it would "look too sexual".

The new code has been met with disbelief on social media. "So are they going to wear their uniforms to the ball? What a joke," one person wrote.

"My ball dress deff wouldn't have made the cut then! Sheeeesh," posted another.

The petition claims that students who had already purchased dresses had been told they could show a picture to the associate principal in order to get it approved.

Many students had already been told their newly purchased dresses were "too exposed" for showing too much back or cleavage and wasted their money, the petition claims.

"Since when has a girls' back caused such outrage for being 'too exposed'? This is sexualising a girls' body and sending the message that they must be covered up and feel ashamed of showing skin," the petition says.

Parents are also being encouraged to email the school about the issue.

A student said they were told in assembly this morning, they were "not allowed to go to social media with school issues".

- NZ Herald

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