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RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (February 18, 1999 - Cook Islands News)---Five seventh form students are suspended from Tereora College because their skirts did not meet the school's standard knee-length requirement.

The incident sparking anger from parents is not new according to College Principal Harry Ivaiti who defended the school's decision to send the girls home for failing to adhere to policy.


But policy or not the length of skirts for college students should not be made an issue at all, according to one parent.

"They [teachers] seem to be more worried about the length of the girls skirts and the shade of their scrunchies (hair bands) than the academic performance or social and emotional wellbeing of the student." That parent said the impact of the incident on the students is not only crushing to their self-confidence. "It's totally unfair when we know there are other students, A level students whose skirts are shorter than these girls, yet those students are not hassled. If the school has a policy on the length, fine, but be fair."

Ivaiti denies that there was any discrimination at all against the five sent home. "They were told to correct the length of their skirts. If the parents have complaints, my door is always open. They don't have to use the media. There are rules and we make sure students abide by those rules."


The war of the skirts is an on-going issue raising the question of how exactly the length of a skirt should be determined.

Ivaiti says it's knee-length, a decision that was processed through the relevant parties: from the teachers, to the school committee, and to the College Student Council before a final decision was reached. And this is where the confusion begins.

Students say even the teachers have conflicting interpretations of the rule. Some define knee-length as where the knees are visible. Others define it as where the knees (and the crease at the back of one's knees) are covered.

"It's so stupid", says one student. "Kids are put through that kind of embarrassment to satisfy some teachers idea of how they should look."


How do you check the length of skirts? Cook Islands News is told that the girls line up and the head mistress ensures those hems are knee-length. All standard procedure as Ivaiti says. Even boys are subjected to hair length checks although they (boys) are "easier to change, easier to convince to conform", the principal says.

Defining the length of skirts, hair, and giving due consideration to the academic and social needs of students are obviously areas that are still unresolved. "But people have to remember, we are an institution, like the police force, we have a dress code", Ivaiti said.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands New Online.

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