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Female students at Carlow school 'told to not wear tight clothes to PE'

Thousands of people have signed a petition in protest over the situation.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Fotokostic

Updated 25 November

THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE have signed a petition in protest over female students at a school in Carlow reportedly being told to not wear tight clothing to PE classes.

Female students in Presentation College Carlow were told not to wear tight leggings to school as it was “distracting” for their teachers, the Carlow Nationalist reported this week.

The newspaper said that talks were given to girls in the school across all year groups, but their male classmates were not spoken to about their clothing.

In a statement on Tuesday, the school said students are “regularly reminded of school rules and regulations at assembly”.

The morning after that initial statement, the school principal denied that the girls were told their clothing was distracting in an interview on Morning Ireland.  

“Instead of tracksuit bottoms, a variety of garments are being worn, more so leggings. It was not an issue with the boys, and it was just a discussion with the girls,” he said.  

“The only thing, mentioned was telling the students to make sure you have a proper uniform on you so that it doesn’t lead to any uncomfortable conversations in relation to your uniform,” he said. 

“Nobody has made a complaint to me in terms of staff being uncomfortable.

“If a wrong message came through there from some of the assemblies or hearing it. You know, obviously, we don’t want that to happen, and that’s why I have an open-door policy here in terms of talking to the kids.”

He said he spoke to a number of individuals who were upset in the days after the assemblies who may “have got a different message from it or someone else, and obviously, we’re concerned for them”. 

He also noted that his staff had “taken the brunt of unsubstantiated rumour and slanderous stuff on social media”.

Parents and students had registered their anger over the incident since Friday. 

A petition criticising the sexism of reportedly singling out female students has been signed over 5,000 times to date.

A spokesperson said the school “continues to look after the pastoral care needs of all students” through support systems in the school.

“Any queries” from parents or students in relation to clothing “will be dealt with in the normal way through the usual school channels”, they added.

When contacted by TheJournal.ie about the incident, the Department of Education said any decisions on school uniform policy “are a matter for the school’s board of management at local level” and schools “should consult with parents and students in relation to this policy”.

A spokesperson added: “In any instance where a parent of student has cause for complaint, matters would normally be addressed to the individual teacher or school principal as appropriate.

“If matters cannot be resolved at that level then a complaint can be addressed to the school’s board of management. A school may have a formal complaints process in which case this should be followed in pursuing any complaint.”

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‘Girls are objectified younger and younger’

Labour’s education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has called for an apology to be made to the students in question.

“The students and parents are rightly disgusted by this missive from the school. No student should be shamed because their outfit might ‘distract a teacher’.

“There must also be an acknowledgement of how completely undermining for male teachers the message given to students was.”

Ó Ríordáin said this kind of discourse is “unacceptable in 2020″.

“Girls are being objectified younger and younger and the last place we expect it from is from schools. Young girls should not be made feel ashamed for their clothing choices in their school communities.

“It is ridiculous that we are having to deal with a situation like this – the school should know better,” he added.

With reporting by Gráinne Ní Aodha

This piece and headline was updated on 25 November to reflect more detailed comments by the principal Ray Murray which were not covered in the school’s initial statement. 

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Órla Ryan

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