A Hastings high school student says she was told by her school to cover a "cultural tattoo" while receiving an award for Maori studies at her end-of-year prizegiving.

Karamu High School student Boston Pollock and her mother Tamsta met her dean and school principal on Monday, the day before prizegiving, where the student says she was told she would not be receiving her awards if she did not "cover" the ta moko on her arm.

The school principal says she did eventually receive the awards without covering her arm and that there had been a misunderstanding between the school, Boston and her parents.

Ms Pollock described her 15-year-old daughter's cultural tattoo as "beautiful" and said it represented three generations of their family.


"She is very proud of her ta moko and will be adding to it in the future.

"This is her culture, our culture, Maori culture."

Boston was eventually allowed to receive her awards in Maori studies and English, Ms Pollock said.

"When we mentioned to them that we would be going to the media, they stepped back."

Karamu High School principal Martin O'Grady said there had simply been a "misunderstanding".

"The student received her prize, two awards in fact, at the ceremony and she hasn't had to cover up anything," Mr O'Grady said.

"She was able to receive them exactly the same way as every other student, in full school uniform."

He would not elaborate on why Boston had been asked to cover her ta moko.


Ms Pollock said her daughter had the tattoo done on her 15th birthday by a cousin.

"She has had her ta moko since September and she wears it very proudly.

"Why shouldn't we be proud of our heritage?

"Some of her teachers have even said they thought it was awesome," Ms Pollock said.

"There is a difference between a tattoo and a ta moko, I know.

"A ta moko represents your family, it would've been different had she just got a tattoo."


She said there had been no complaints from the school regarding Boston's ta moko, before Monday.

"As we were walking into an office to address this matter, I asked a teacher who had a clearly visible ta moko on his arm what it represented," Ms Pollock said.

"His whakapapa was very clear and interesting and he was extremely proud of it."

She said she was worried her daughter would be forced to cover up her "whakapapa and genealogy" whenever she was at school or representing Karamu High School.

"She has been there for two years now and is doing very well at the school, it would be sad to have to take her out, especially since I went to Karamu as well."