Girls who attended an Auckland school ball were patted down and had to pull their dresses high up their thighs before they were allowed in, a student says.
A 17-year-old girl who attended Wesley College's ball on Saturday said the girls were herded one by one into a room and searched by a female security guard who asked them to lift their dresses up high - meaning they often revealed their underwear.
The girl's mother, a Corrections officer, said the search had been poorly performed and she believed her daughter had been "violated".
However, Wesley College Principal Dr Brian Evans said he was comfortable with the way the security was handled and the school had not received a complaint.
Evans said the Wesley College Ball was held at Ellerslie Convention Centre, which has a set of security protocols.
Individual schools elect to sign up at the level at which they are comfortable. They include: 1) bag search, 2) bag search and pat down, 3) bag search, pat down and breathalyser and 4) all of the above as well as drug dogs.
Wesley College elected number 2 - a bag search and pat down, Evans said.
A female student, who attends another school but went to the ball, said boys and girls were separated on arrival. Girls were sent individually into a room with a guard who patted them down and checked their bags.
"She touched me everywhere. She touched my side boobs, my hips, under my boobs and the wire of my bra, then in the centre," the girl said.
"She had no gloves and she was using the palm of her hand - you're not supposed to do that."
Sensitive souls: Are Gen Z really a bunch of snowflakes?
The guard then made her pull her floor-length dress high up her thighs - which exposed her underwear - before she was satisfied, the girl said.
The guard did not touch her legs but had "had a good look".
A friend with a long split in her dress also had her underwear exposed during the search.
As the girls were wearing "ball undies" the exposure was extremely uncomfortable, she said.
At the time she had been focused on getting into the ball, so agreed to the search.
"It was so uncomfortable - when she told me to pull my dress up, that's a real no-no. But I still ended up doing it anyway."
Only when she discussed the incident with friends did they start to question why it was necessary.
The girl said boys were searched in a public area and not to the same extent - and in the end, cigarettes and vapes still made their way onto the dance floor.
"That wasn't from the girls - it was from the boys."
She understood alcohol had been smuggled into the ball last year and some students had been drunk.
Principal Evans said he had been advised by the centre that female students would be taken into a separate room and two people would assess each student, asking her to lift her skirt to knee level only if they suspected something.
There was a female security guard, duty manager and/or a teacher - a total of two people - doing the search at all times, he said.
The male students were also given a pat down, Evans said.
He explained the ball event as "a joy to be part of" and an "occasion everyone is proud of".
However, the girl's mother, who asked not to be named as she is a Corrections officer, said she felt like the guard had "violated my daughter".
"Especially because she wasn't wearing gloves. She could have touched someone else, then touched her inappropriately."
In prison, a second officer must always be present during patdowns. The use of the palm, rather than the back of the hand, was also a red flag, she said.
"Not even a Corrections officer can do that when you're touching over the breast, under the breast. It all sounded wrong.
"It turns it from searching someone to a totally different thing - and it feels like the security firm is not trained in that area.
"They're violating young teens. It's worse than what happens to an adult, touching vulnerable teens in that way. And asking them to show their thighs or things like that - it's really private in a lot of cultures," she said.
"We tell our teenagers, protect your body, cover certain places. Then to have someone say 'Pull your dress right up till I see your thighs' - it wouldn't be very nice for anybody."
She wanted the incident exposed so that Wesley and other schools would reconsider such policies in future.
Wesley College is a Methodist school with a special character dispensation. It is co-educational but the majority of students are boys and most of the girls attending the ball would have come from other schools.
Ellerslie Convention Centre has been contacted for comment.