‘Distracting’: Tasmanian Catholic schoolgirls forced to kneel and have skirts measured

Marist Regional College in Burnie forced to apologise after complaints from parents over ‘outdated’ and ‘humiliating’ incident

A Tasmanian Catholic secondary school has been forced to issue an apology after a group of year 8 students were instructed to kneel down to have their skirts measured, because their dress length was “distracting” male teachers and students.

Marist Regional College, in the coastal town of Burnie, sent out a letter of apology on Monday afternoon after complaints from multiple parents, who called the incident “outdated” and “humiliating”, the Advocate reported.

Several parents told the Advocate a group of girls were pulled out of class and taken to a communal space where they were asked to kneel and have their skirt lengths measured.

A teacher involved in the incident informed one of the girls that their skirt length was “distracting” for male teachers and older male students.

The school principal, Gregg Sharman, confirmed the incident had occurred and said he was “extremely disappointed” in the letter to parents.

“We do not condone or support these actions and they do not align with our College Uniform and Presentation Policy,” he wrote in the letter.

“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.”

The Advocate reported the apology came after complaints from parents and requests for meetings with senior staff, which had been denied by Sharman.

The secondary school, part of a network of Catholic high schools around Australia is co-educational and retains a strong emphasis on religious education.

As outlined in its uniform and presentation policy, the college requires girls’ dresses and skirts to be “an appropriate length … a good guide is one hand width above the knee”.

Any dresses or skirts “deemed to be too short” need to be “adjusted in a timely fashion”.

“The Marist Regional College values call us to be a Catholic community in which all people are treated equally,” its policy says.

“Collectively, we play a critical role in supporting our young people to attend to uniform expectations, thereby supporting broader attempts to build social cohesion across the college.”

A former student who left the school in 2006 and wished to remain anonymous told Guardian Australia she had been threatened with having her skirt measured for “distracting” male teachers and students.

“My response back then was to hope the parents of young boys raised them to understand consent,” she said.

“A lot of people I knew from there had so many issues with this,” she said.

Sharman was approached by Guardian Australia for comment.

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Caitlin Cassidy

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