School 'only supports female causes'

KATARINA FILIPE
Last updated 05:00 03/09/2011
GOING BLUE: Timaru Girls' High School student Kristie Bennet wore blue face paint to school but was told to wash it off.
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ The Timaru Herald
GOING BLUE: Timaru Girls' High School student Kristie Bennet wore blue face paint to school but was told to wash it off.

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A Timaru girl says she was forced to wash off her blue face paint as it was supporting a male cause – and her school, being a girls' school, could only support female causes.

However her principal has told the Timaru Herald the school has "no policy around any gender-related fundraisers".

Kristie Bennet, 15, turned up to Timaru Girls' High School yesterday with half her face painted blue to support Blue Friday, a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of prostate cancer.

She said she wanted to take part as her grandfather died from the disease last year.

She hoped her fellow students would spread the cancer message to the men in their lives.

"When I went to form class I was told straight away to take [the paint] off. I went to the deputy principal [to ask if I could keep it on] and she said we were only allowed to support female causes.

"She watched me take [the paint] off."

Kristie said two of her friends were in the room when the deputy made the comments.

Kristie said she became upset at not being able to show her support and, after telling her friends about it, they decided to paint blue stripes on the faces of about 50 other girls.

When the deputy principal saw the face paint, all the students were asked to wash it off, Kristie said.

"[The deputy] said it was breaking school rules. She said the school should support female causes because we're an all-girls' school and that next year she was going to get everyone to support a female cause."

Kristie, who joined TGHS this year, said she and her sister wore blue face paint at a different Timaru school last year and did not get into trouble.

"I don't see why it should be different. I just wanted to let people know about prostate cancer and to get people to support it as much as I do. I hope the school will change its mind so they can support prostate cancer next year."

She admitted she had not asked for permission to wear the face paint.

TGHS principal Sarah Davis said she understood that the deputy had told Kristie that if someone had approached the school earlier, they could have considered acknowledging her message in some way.

"If we're going to do things like this we have to deal with it as a school ... some of the girls who saw the paint would not have known what this was about, which is disrespectful to those in the school affected by this.

"It's something obviously really important for her [so that makes us feel] even more that it should have been done in a respectful manner."

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Mrs Davis said at first Kristie agreed to deal with it differently next year, but then she decided to paint other students' faces "who were doing it as a challenge to the uniform" rather than to support Blue Friday. "When we support things as a school we need to make sure that's what the school wants. Obviously as a girls' school there might be different things that we look to support ... but we would never disrespect [other causes]."

Mrs Davis said Kristie may have misunderstood the context of what the deputy principal said. The deputy would have said something like: "There are lots of causes in the community, as a school we need to decide which we want to support. Maybe, say, breast cancer".

Mrs Davis said the school had a student council to hear requests around special days and had no policy on gender-related fundraisers.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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