Auckland secondary school accused of rape culture for telling female students they’re distracting male teachers

''It's just sending a really bad message," says one parent.

An Auckland secondary school has been accused of rape culture by its student and parent community after female students were reportedly told that the way they dress is “distracting the male teachers”.

A senior staff member from Rangitoto College, New Zealand’s largest secondary school, is said to have told Year 13 female students, who are permitted to wear mufti, on several occasions this year that what they’re wearing is proving a distraction to their male teachers, and that the male teachers “didn’t know where to look”.

Girls have been pulled out of class and forced to change into clothing that the school has given them.

Many have gone home in tears, claims Year 13 student Rose Pearce, “including myself”.

One girl was told that because she had bigger breasts she could not wear V-neck t-shirts, Rose says.

Rose, who has been reprimanded for wearing a t-shirt that showed her stomach when she lifted her arms up in class, started a petition rebelling against the school’s crackdown on the year 13 dress code. The petition garnered almost 800 signatures overnight, but was taken down today after a teacher complained that the petition said teachers had been “aroused” by what the girls were wearing, and this was inaccurate.

Rose’s claim in the petition that students had been told they were distracting male teachers was not refuted though.

However principal Patrick Gale told Now To Love in a statement, “Rangitoto College has high expectations of all students, including our Year 13 students who wear mufti. Following an investigation where the dress code was clarified to some of our students, they now understand our position and appreciate the need for dress standards. We completely refute the suggestion that teachers are distracted by mufti. While we admire our students’ social conscience, we try to ensure that we create an environment for our community that enables all of our high educational expectations to be delivered.”

One parent of a Year 13 student, who shared the petition on Facebook but did not want to be named for fear of repercussions for her daughter, has accused the school of promoting “rape culture” while many students that Now To Love spoke to felt the dean’s comments were “disgusting”, “outdated” and “sexist”.

The parent told Now To Love, “It’s just sending a really bad message.

“It’s promoting rape culture, saying it’s alright to rape because of what they’re wearing. That’s not an invitation. It’s not an excuse. That’s saying it’s the girl’s fault for dressing like that because the teacher feels disturbed. Well, if they’re getting disturbed by that, they shouldn’t be teaching at a school with 18 year old girls in it.

“The message should be to the teachers not to the students who are getting the blame for it, it’s just ridiculous.”

Another student, who asked not to be named, said, “It’s not just humiliating and disgusting for the female students, but also for the male teachers. It’s basically saying that they can’t control themselves around 17 year old girls.

“I’ve had several male teachers and none of them have made me feel uncomfortable,” she said.

The school has many rules for the Year 13 dress code. Students are forbidden from wearing t-shirts with offensive slogans, jandals, tops with shoestring straps or plunging necklines or that show the midriff, skirts or shorts with hemlines above the fingertips (when you put your arms by your sides), and ripped jeans. This week leggings were also added to the list.

Students and parents both report that the school has been stricter than in previous years on the year 13 dress code, and teachers were targeting female students.

“It’s been putting the kids and staff at loggerheads which isn’t good for their education,” said the parent of the Year 13 student.

“Yes, there needs to be discipline but there seems to be a very authoritarian approach.”

Rose Pearce says, “I feel sick to my stomach that in 2019 young women still have to feel self conscious of their bodies and clothing.”

Another student who did not wish to be named said, “It’s disgusting. I can’t believe people still think like this in 2019.”

The parent said, “We’ve raised our girls to be proud, to be strong, to be independent. I very rarely comment on their clothing because they make very good clothing choices.

“They look smart neat and tidy – even in shoestring straps.”

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