Marist Regional College apologises for 'humiliating' uniform check

Picture: Simon Sturzaker
Picture: Simon Sturzaker

A Tasmanian school has "unreservedly apologised" after a group of Year 8 students were told to kneel in a public place and have their skirts measured.

The apology follows complaints from multiple parents of students, who called the incident "humiliating", "outdated" and "inappropriate".

The school, Marist Regional College, in Burnie, Tasmania, issued a letter of apology on Monday afternoon.

According to multiple parents of children within the school, a group of Year 8 girls were pulled out of their class last week and taken to The Atrium, a communal space in the middle of one of the buildings.

"They were asked to kneel and have the lengths of their skirts measured," a parent, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

"There was a statement made to the girls by one of the teachers that it was distracting for male teachers and/or older male students.

"It was in a public space, and obviously there would have been class groups around that could see that occurring."

The parent said their daughter had been among the girls singled out for the "humiliating" experience.

"I was in a meeting and (my daughter) texted me ... the first message was, 'you'll never guess what the girls in my class had to do' ... and I thought she was joking," they said.

"She knew it was wrong, because I'm very passionate about these sorts of things and have taught her that that kind of stuff is wrong, so that's why she let me know. There were lots of students who didn't know it was wrong.

"I'm trying to be sensitive but I'm so angry about it."

Principal Gregg Sharman confirmed the incident in his letter to parents on Monday afternoon.

"Marist Regional College is extremely disappointed that this has occurred, we do not condone or support these actions and they do not align with our College Uniform and Presentation Policy," he wrote.

"The college unreservedly apologises to the students and families concerned. We want to reassure the community that this practice is unacceptable and is not a practice that will continue."

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The parent said they were not trying to single out any one teacher, but highlight a "cultural issue" within the school.

"It's outdated, it's unnecessary, it's disrespectful to the girls - for me it's a cultural issue for this to even be considered acceptable practice," they fumed.

"Asking girls to get on their knees in front of an adult should not be happening. Imagine going to work as a woman and your boss goes, 'right girls, line up and kneel and we'll measure your skirts'. We shouldn't do this to adults, and we shouldn't do this to children.

Diligite veritatem - Love the truth. Picture: File

Diligite veritatem - Love the truth. Picture: File

"And on the back of what's happened at the school in the last three months, it's terrible, and there's terrible connotations of getting young school girls on their knees."

It is understood multiple parents complained to the school last week and requested meetings with senior staff, but had been denied.

The school was asked why parents who contacted the school were allegedly ignored, but did not address the question.

"We need to stop this business of making girls and women feel like they are responsible for the poor behaviour of others," the parent said.

"It's not about girls getting in trouble for wearing short skirts, it's the way it was handled. I'd like to see the school apologise publicly."

Another parent and former Marist student said her Year 7 son had come home talking about the issue.

"This used to happen to us in the '90s," she said.

"That was 30 years ago, and back then it was just what we had to do - it was still not ok. But life is different now, and we don't treat girls like that. There's so many other ways they could have handled that.

"My son is in Year 7 ... there's never been anything like that done to the boys, they never got inspected for tight pants or anything like that."

She said most of the parents understood and supported having a dress code, but took issue with the public demonstration.

"There's just other ways to go about enforcing this. This was like The Handmaid's Tale. They should just be sending a note home or something," she declared.

"It's an especially bad look ... the way they're handling this is to blame girls and the way they dress. From a PR perspective it's not a good look."

Principal Sharman said the school was taking the matter very seriously.

"The College has responded to families of Year 8 students involved who have raised concerns, either in person or by phone. Key staff members have apologised to the two classes involved," he said.

"I have visited classes to debrief with the students, who continue to be our focus. The College is continuing to have discussions with the staff involved and further follow up will take place."

This story School apologises after staff publicly measure Year 8 girls' skirts first appeared on The Advocate.