Girls' school demands students submit photos for 'approval' before formal

Catholic girls’ school demands students submit photos of their dress for ‘approval’ before formal


A Catholic girls’ school in Brisbane is making headlines, after a student claimed the school asked students to submit photos of their formal dresses for “approval” a week before the Year 12 formal. 

According to the Mary MacKillop college student, who spoke to the Guardian, the school also provided girls with an “outdated” booklet with the formal’s suggested dress code.

The student alleged that the dresses which were not approved by the school “needed to be changed” before the event, “even if money was spent on another dress”.

“I know many students were worried to show the heads of houses or teachers in case they were declined,” the student said. “Once the night commenced … no one was turned away, from my knowledge.

“One of the biggest confusions for me is how ‘all girls’ schools are more controlling of what the students wear, compared to being invited by an ‘all boys’ school where there is no dress code for partners.”

Guardian Australia sighted an email from Mary MacKillop college in May which asked students to submit photos of what they planned to wear. 

“The HOHs [heads of houses] haven’t seen or approved everyone’s outfit for the night … so please submit a photo of your dress or suit on the Microsoft Form below so we have all your photos in one spot to check,” the email read.

According to the Guardian, the booklets instructed students on the dos and don’ts, including “no plunging necklines or low backs below the waist”.

The booklet also stated “adherence to the dress code is essential” and the school “reserves the right to ask students and their guests to make amendments to their attire prior to the night and … on the night of the formal.”

One former student told the Guardian that a similar booklet was provided to students before last year’s Year 12 formal, with the dress code strictly enforced on the night, which saw some students face “a few issues getting their dresses approved due to cleavage”.

“The [college was] telling girls they would need to buy shawls and if they didn’t want to buy one then they would have them provided at the venue if their dress was deemed too revealing,” the student said.

The Courier Mail published comments from the school, who denied the claims, saying “there was no process in place to approve dresses.”

A spokesperson from Brisbane Catholic education told the Courier Mail the formal “…went without incident.”

“As happens every year, students were provided an information guide to the school formal,” the spokesperson said.

One former student at Highlands Christian college in Toowoomba told the Guardian he was not allowed to wear a dress to his Year 12 formal last year. 

“My original plan was to show up and surprise everyone but I was afraid they’d kick me out of the formal … so I asked beforehand,” the former student told Eden Gillespie. “They said no.” 

“It’s very nerve-racking to go against the social norms of your gender.” 

Queensland education minister, Grace Grace, said public schools consult “with their wider school community about the type of dress required” at social functions, including Year 12 formals.

“This should take into account a range of things such as the activities to be carried out and any health and safety issues, but should never be about a student’s gender, size, or sexual orientation,” Grace said.

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