Ballarat schoolgirls sent home for wearing short dresses

Shamika Haby and Natalie Borthwick were sent home because their dresses were too short. PICTURE: JEREMY BANNISTER

Shamika Haby and Natalie Borthwick were sent home because their dresses were too short. PICTURE: JEREMY BANNISTER

DOZENS of female students at Ballarat Secondary College were sent home on Monday from the Wendouree campus for their dresses being too short.

Parents say the school has lost sight of bigger issues, and argued they could not make the changes only a week after a letter was sent out to parents. 

Year 10 students Natalie Borthwick, Shamika Haby and Emma Graham were among the girls sent home. 

Natalie said she attended first period, when at recess she was told to get her belongings, was sent to the front office and told to go home. 

“I wasn’t embarrassed, but I was angry. I’ve been here since year 7 and I’ve been a good student – yet I was sent home for something like this,” Natalie said. 

"It shouldn’t be up to a male teacher to say that a student’s dress is too short"

Parent Nicole Graham said there needed to be stronger communication. 

She said there was no way parents could adhere to the new rules overnight and that there needed to be a transition phase. 

“It’s destroying our children’s education. They’re not letting them learn because of the length of their dresses,” Ms Graham said. 

“It shouldn’t be up to a male teacher to say that a student’s dress is too short.” 

Ms Graham’s daughter, Emma, was told to unpick the hem on her dress a few weeks ago, only to be sent home on Monday with her dress still too short. 

“It’s really tacky. I have to wear a dress unhemmed,” Emma said. 

Ms Graham said her daughter was sent home with another dress, which she could not afford to buy and her daughter did not want to wear because it had holes and buttons missing. 

“A new dress is $79 from Lowes. We can’t all afford to buy new dresses every six months. I’m a single mother and I have three other children,” she said. 

Ballarat Secondary College principal Rick Gervasoni, who started at the school last year, said he had asked that school uniform policy be enforced. 

“These are rules we’ve had for a long time, well before I started, that covers all aspects of the uniform approved by school council.” 

He said regulations stipulated that dresses be knee-length. 

“Uniform gives a sense of identity and pride. It sets the tone for the day and gives a strong connection to the school. 

“All schools in Ballarat have a uniform policy.”

Mr Gervasoni said a small number of students were sent home on Monday, after a period of communication with students and parents. 

“Students have been spoken to over a period of time about what’s expected,”he said.

“We’re working with parents to make sure the policy is implemented, and supporting parents who couldn’t readily access more uniforms.”

He said all parents of students who were sent home were contacted and the school was working to resolve the issue.

“We don’t want students missing school,” he said.

Uniform policies are wide-spread across Ballarat, with most schools enforcing a knee-length rule for both summer dresses and winter skirts.

nicole.cairns@fairfaxmedia.com.au