By Elizabeth Lee
EDUCATION minister Norma Foley is to receive a report into the controversy that has erupted in Presentation College, Carlow over the wearing of tight clothing to school.
The Nationalist reported yesterday, Tuesday, that every female student had been called from their classrooms for a pep talk about inappropriate clothing like leggings being worn as part of the school uniform. The talks took place on Friday morning and did not include any of the male students.
The mothers of several teenage girls subsequently contacted The Nationalist to complain that their daughters had been told not to wear tight clothing because it made staff members uncomfortable. In the talks, which were given by the deans of disciple (year head teachers), the girls were told not to wear tight leggings, or their skirts too short, or their tops too tight, which many of the students took exception to. This sparked a heated discussion over the weekend on social media, which attracted thousands of participants. Commentators said that telling the female students not to wear tight clothing amounted to sexualising the teenage girls and that it was “body shaming”.
An online petition against sexism in schools was signed by more than 10,000 people today and, after breaking the story yesterday morning,Tuesday, the issue garnered national attention.
Despite numerous attempts by The Nationalist to contact principal Ray Murray, the head of Presentation College was not available for comment on Monday.
However, he did appear on RTÉ Radio I’s Morning Ireland programme, where he denied any wrongdoing on the school’s behalf and said that the talks by the head teachers were about the wearing of appropriate school uniforms because school was now “like a fashion show”.
He said that the girls were brought out of class and into assemblies without the boys because it was “primarily the girls” who were flouting the uniform rules by wearing leggings and that the boys weren’t included because the school didn’t want to embarrass anyone, neither boys nor girls.
Mr Murray also said that none of the teachers had complained about feeling “uncomfortable” by the girls’ clothing and added that he also spoke to several students who were upset after the assemblies after they “got a different message, one way or the other, or heard (something) from someone else”. He continued that he didn’t want any of the students to be upset and that’s why he had an “open door policy for the kids”.
Mr Murray also denounced the “scandalous” comments and allegations about the teachers on social media, asserting that it was the teachers who bore the brunt of “unsubstantiated rumours” on social media.
Minister Foley is to receive a report on the matter after it was raised in the Dáil today during question time by deputy Mick Barry of the Solidarity/PBP party .