A New Zealand high school has been blasted by social media users for instructing its female students to lower their skirt hemlines because they were “distracting” for male teachers.
A group of 40 Year 11 students at Henderson High School in Auckland were summoned to a meeting by deputy principal Cherith Telford, who said their skirts would need to be lowered to knee length in order to “keep our girls safe, stop boys from getting ideas and create a good work environment for male staff”.
“Basically we were told that the skirts needed to be lowered to below our knees or we would be given detention after school,” Henderson student Sade Tuttle told Newshub.
Ms Telford’s remarks attracted a backlash from social media users who argued it was men’s responsibility to not be “distracted” by women’s sexuality, and that the focus on women’s skirt hemlines played into a culture of “victim blaming”.
But American singer-songwriter Erykah Badu sparked a heated debate on Twitter after admitting she agreed with Henderson High School’s new policy because men were by nature “attracted to women of child-bearing age” and society had a “responsibility to protect young ladies”.
“I agreed because I am aware that we live in a sex-driven society,” Ms Badu tweeted.
“It is everyone’s, male and female’s, responsibility to protect young ladies … one way to protect youth is to remind them we are all sexual in nature and as they grow and develop it is natural to attract men.”
Ms Badu continued: “It is not [young women] who are doing anything wrong by being beautiful and attractive, but with such imbalance in our society it is smart to be aware and awake. Men and women both go thru cycles of arousal. Men automatically are attracted to women of child-bearing age.”
Henderson High School is not the first to cop backlash for its policies on the length of students’ skirts.
A UK high school which removed skirts from its uniform entirely because girls were wearing them too short and apparently “distracting” male teachers drew further ire in September last year after also banning too-tight trousers.
“It’s not pleasant for male members of staff and students either, the girls have to walk up stairs and sit down and it’s a complete distraction,” Trentham High School headmistress, Dr Rowena Blencowe, said of students’ “inappropriately short” hemlines.
“After a while it stops being a uniform issue and starts becoming a safeguarding issue.”
Similarly, in 2013, female students at Northlakes High School in New South Wales were instructed not to wear their skirts “above the fingertips”, while wearing tights without skirts over the top was also banned.
The principal of nearby Warner’s Bay High School, Sharon Parkes, said some students were wearing the uniform incorrectly.
”I said to some girls who tried to wear tights without their skirt over the top: ‘Lady Gaga doesn’t work here and we’re not walking around in our underwear’,” Dr Parkes said.
Henderson High School has told media that principal Mike Purcell is unavailable for comment.