Students are planning a protest and the Human Rights Commission is reminding schools to “tread carefully” as a stoush erupts over uniform compliance at a North Shore school.
Parents of female students at Long Bay College have laid complaints with the Board of Trustees after some students said they felt humiliated after being told to prove their skirts weren’t rolled at the waistband to shorten them.
The school held an assembly to address uniform compliance and students claimed it included “sexist treatment”.
Several female students have approached the Herald with complaints of unfair treatment around compliance with the uniform, including allegations of having to show the tops of their skirts to teachers and missing out on schooling for make-up and jewellery-related infractions.
The mum of one of the students, who wished to remain anonymous, said she understands the school has rules, but was concerned how far the school was going to keep students in compliance.
“They were told to lift their shirts up [to show their midriff] so they could see if [the skirts] were rolled and then they were told to turn around in front of the teachers to check whether or not it looked okay.”
The principal of Long Bay College, CJ Healey, adamantly denied the girls were asked to lift their shirts to prove their compliance.
“Three girls were asked by female members of staff if they were happy to show that their skirts were not rolled at the waist, two then unrolled them and one declined, which was respected. No girls were made to lift shirts,” Healey said.
Healey said girls did have their jewellery confiscated, but parents are able to collect it at any time, and students are able to retrieve it at the end of the week.
“A staff member mistakenly asked a student to remove her taonga or do up a button to conceal it. No taonga was confiscated and the student continued to wear it,” Healey claimed.
“As this is an important inclusion in our uniform policy, we will remind staff that the wearing of taonga is permitted.”
A student protest is scheduled for next Wednesday, where the female students intend to protest what they are calling “sexist rules”.
A spokesperson from the Human Rights Commission said schools need to tread carefully when monitoring uniform rules.
“They need to make sure that any rule about skirt length is clear and can be addressed without being invasive or embarrassing students.”
Other serious claims have also arisen, as students have allegedly been forced to remove taonga.
The Human Rights Commission spokesperson told the Herald that school boards must meet in any decisions and actions regarding school uniform policies. This includes an obligation to uphold students’ right to enjoy and express their cultural and religious identity.
“In practice, Māori students should be able to wear items that are taonga to them. This can include tā moko, pounamu or hei tiki,” the spokesperson said.
One Long Bay College student claimed they were forced to sit in the office all day due to the fact they had “light make-up on and a clear piercing in”.
Having hair ties on wrists has also been banned, if students are caught with one on their wrist, it is immediately confiscated. However, it is a necessity for classes such as science and food tech, so some girls are being forced to miss out due to what they are calling a simple mistake.
Additionally, girls were forced to remove their mascara with cotton wool. Students came to the Herald claiming girls were lined up down the hallway around the dean’s office and forced to take off their make-up, most of whom just had on “light mascara”.
At an assembly on Monday, students allegedly listened while teachers said they were “hiding behind their make-up” which was “affecting their self-esteem”.
Isabel Evans, leader for the North sector of the Ministry of Education, asked that any parents or students concerned with the enforcement of the uniform rules should raise these with the school board.
Rachel Maher is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. She has worked for the Herald since 2022.