Girls told to lengthen skirts so male staff have “good work environment”
A principal at a New Zealand high school is getting some well-deserved criticism after telling girls to lengthen skirts, so the men and boys of the school aren’t distracted. Around 40 girls at Henderson High School in Auckland were called to a special meeting and told that their skirts needed to be lengthened to knee level. Deputy Principal Cherith Telford told the girls they needed to follow instructions in order to “keep our girls safe, stop boys from getting ideas, and create a good work environment for male staff.”
The students were threatened with detention if they didn’t follow Telford’s demands, Newshub reported. School uniforms aren’t new. I went to Catholic school for nine years, and my skirt was measured by nuns and teachers to make sure it wasn’t too short. But no one ever told me the rules were in place so my male classmates and teachers could focus. Like the parents whose daughters attend Henderson, mine would have been on the phone very quickly to share their outrage over Telford’s rationale. Because it isn’t the rule that everyone is upset about, but the reasoning behind it and the message sent to these young girls.
Telford essentially told these girls that they’ll be punished for not lowering their skirt to make it easier on the men around them. Essentially, your first goal as a woman should always be to make the men around you comfortable. Especially since if you don’t, then those men might get some ideas that would threaten your safety. And we can’t possibly hold boys and men accountable for their actions when female students are wearing skirts. How exactly are these boys and men handling the risqué world outside of Henderson? Or is measuring every woman’s skirt a thing in New Zealand that we haven’t heard about?
Experts agreed that the principal’s comments were wrong. “It sends a message that young women are responsible for young men’s sexual behavior, and also sends a bad message to young men that their sexual behavior is uncontrollable,” Massey University lecturer Deborah Russell told The Guardian. Debbi Tohill, executive director of Rape Crisis, said, “In this instance, where the teacher is in a position of authority and control, the teacher has the responsibility to ensure a safe environment is created for all students. Teachers need to ensure that they have respectful relationships with their students.”
Even the girls who were part of this ridiculous meeting knew the principal’s ideas were outrageous. “The rules themselves aren’t the problem; the problem is when these codes target girls specifically because their bodies are sexual and distracting,” Henderson student Sade Tuttle said.
When questioned about the comments Henderson Principal Mike Purcell said, “As principal, I make no apology for insisting on high standards … That includes wearing the uniform according to the agreed rules.” So enforcing dress codes on girls is top priority but ensuring male students and educational professionals behave like responsible humans is not? The principal and deputy principal should take this opportunity to listen to their students and the students’ parents before they come up with another rationale that is sexist and hypocritical.