Auckland Diocesan School accused of ‘excluding’ Muslim community with hijab stance

Diocesan School for Girls principal Heather McRae allegedly told staff the Islamic hijab violated the school's dress code.

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Diocesan School for Girls principal Heather McRae allegedly told staff the Islamic hijab violated the school’s dress code.

A private Auckland girls school has sparked controversy by allegedly telling two students that wearing a hijab is against school policy.

According to an article published by TRT World, Diocesan School for Girls principal Heather McRae told staff on Wednesday that the Islamic hijab violated the dress code.

Her announcement followed an inquiry from students who had asked about wearing one, and comes follows a national call to support the Muslim community following Friday’s attacks.

In an updated statement on Thursday afternoon, school spokeswoman Jackie Ellis said the hijab was not banned.

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“It is simply not part of the long-standing school uniform code and there has never been a formal request from a family to have changes made to include it,” Ellis said.

“A staff member queried whether the hijab was considered part of uniform, and was referred to Diocesan’s Uniform Code, which all students and families agree to when they choose to join the school.”

The school would not respond to questions about what would happen if a student were to turn up wearing the religious head covering.

In response to the allegations, associate professor of social sciences at AUT Camille Nakhid said it’s exclusion from the official dress code was concerning, even if it wasn’t banned.

Diocesan School For Girls is a high-achieving private school for girls in Epsom, Auckland.

Diocesan School For Girls is a high-achieving private school for girls in Epsom, Auckland.

“The dress code is not representing everyone, they are excluding a certain part of our community,” Nakhid said. 

“There is silent superiority in our schools that we don’t allow things outside the Eurocentric type of dress code.”

Nakhid said the events of last Friday was often seen as a lone individual act, when in fact it is actually connected to a wider history of systemic racism.

“For children who get sent to these schools, they believe they can only be successful if they behave more like white people, and dress the way they do.

“It’s really sad that this is an issue.”

According to TRT World, staff were told the school dress code only allowed for small religious or cultural items such as crosses to be worn underneath the students’ uniforms.

Because of their size, hijabs did not fit that criteria.

Ellis said the school was supportive of the Scarves in Solidarity event being held on Friday and any girl or person who wanted to show their respect for Muslim families affected in Christchurch was “most welcome” to wear a hijab to school on that day.