Include the expression of religious beliefs in Diocesan's school uniform policy
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On Friday 15th March, a local mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand was attacked and 50 people killed. Following a week of solidarity demonstrated by the large majority of New Zealanders, it was brought to our attention that our old school, Diocesan School for Girls in Auckland, does not allow its students to wear religious dress to express their beliefs, including the wearing of a hijab.
The school's principal, Heather McRae, published a statement on the school's Facebook page which included a statement on their uniform policy.
An excerpt reads: "Our long-standing uniform policy is developed to help create a sense of oneness and family and is worn with pride by our students. Like most school uniforms, regulations are in place to ensure the Diocesan identify is upheld, such as no wearing of jewellery or nail polish, skirt length, a requirement to tie back long hair and wear the School blazer outside school grounds, shoe styles and so on. The hijab itself has never been banned at Diocesan; it is simply not part of the long-standing Uniform Code. All parents sign up to our Uniform policy when they join the School."
Dio's Facebook page has subsequently been removed following many negative comments on the post.
As Diocesan School alumni, we feel ashamed that this is the position taken by the school's leadership, and so this petition is a call to action for a review of the uniform policy and greater engagement with students from diverse backgrounds to ensure that the school is meeting their needs. We encourage old girls, and the general public alike, to support this action.
Dear Ms McRae,
We were deeply disappointed to read your statement regarding uniform policy at Dio in the wake of the terrorist attack in Christchurch - both for its content and its timing.
As alumni, this in no way reflects the kind of culture that we wish to represent, nor support.
We urge you to rethink and reform the uniform policy to be inclusive of religious dress, enabling all students the right to practice their religion.
With regards to the upkeep of a Dio identity, we feel it’s abhorrent to exclude expressions of religious identity in this. At Dio we were taught to be inclusive, to stand up for what we believe in, and to represent our community proudly. What kind of culture is the school creating by suppressing some students’ ability to share their most sacred element of identity?
Positive social change comes not from fear, but from the constant challenging of ourselves, our views, and our traditions. It is time to review the rules. If a government can change its gun laws in a matter of days, a school can change a policy. Tradition is no excuse for complacency and it has never been in Dio's values to turn away from challenging the status quo.
We expect more from you, from the school’s management and leadership. We rely on you to set an example for the kind of world we wish to live in and for our children to grow up in - one of kindness, compassion, empathy, and acceptance.
We, the undersigned, request:
- That an apology is made for the insensitivity of the statement made on Facebook
- That the Principal and school leadership team proactively engage with students of different backgrounds, ethnic, and religious diversities to understand how the school can better meet their needs
- That the school uniform policy is amended to allow students to express their religious beliefs
Dio Old Girls
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