Furious parents have lashed out at a Sydney high school after up to 70 students were barred from attending their Year 10 graduation because they were wearing fake nails.
The students from Mackellar Girls Campus on the northern beaches were instead placed in a separate room and banned from entering the main hall where the graduation took place.
Speaking to news.com.au, the mother of a barred student Sarah* said a lot of parents had taken time off to attend the 9.15am assembly on Monday.
“No one had any idea where they were and the assembly started an hour later because they were disciplining the girls because of the nails,” said Sarah.
“A lot of the parents had to actually leave the ceremony because they had to get back to work.”
A large portion of the students had also gotten their nails done for their Year 10 formal on Thursday, just four days before the graduation ceremony.
Sarah said a majority of the girls were also attending another formal on the day after their graduation, so it didn’t make sense for them to get their fake nails removed.
‘At least acknowledge them’
Eventually, some of the students, including Sarah’s daughter Chrissy*, were allowed back into the hall, however they were told to sit at the back of the assembly and did not have their names read out. Sarah said that as a parent, that was the “hardest thing” for her.
“They pretended these girls didn’t exist. At least acknowledge them,” said Sarah.
Ultimately, she believes the decision wasn’t fair.
“The nails weren’t that offensive,” she said.
She also questioned why some of the teachers were allowed to wear bright red nails, yet the short, naturally-coloured acrylics of the students were criticised.
“I think that’s a slight double-standard,” she added.
“This has been four years of their life, throughout Covid and lockdown. I understand that rules are rules but to treat them like this is not OK.
“It’s bullying and a form of intimidation and ostracising these girls and you can’t do that in this day and age.”
Student forced to cut her own nails
Another Year 10 student was still banned from attending the ceremony despite trimming her acrylic nails and receiving an all clear from two teachers.
Her mother Lily* told news.com.au that “every child deserves the right to graduate, irrespective of, or if they have nail polish on or not.”
“The management at the school are so out of touch and this behaviour has been going on for years,” she added.
“It was like they never existed after four years of attending the school,” she added.
“There were so many parents who had taken time off work to attend, to sit there in the audience and not only not see their daughters get their awards, but their names were not even recognised. Absolutely disgusting behaviour for a publicly funded and run local government school.”
The story, which first appeared on the Manly Observer social media page and Instagram, attracted significant attention from irate parents.
Numbers inaccurate: Department responds
President of the Northern Sydney District Council of P&C Associations, David Hope says the actions of the school were “completely unjustified”.
“The District Council will be in contact with the school P&C and will be taking this matter up with the Department of Education and the Education Minister,” he told news.com.au.
“As far as we’re concerned, the school and the Department don’t have the powers to exclude those students because they had long fingernails.”
The NSW Department of Education and a spokesperson from the NBSC Mackellar Girls Campus claimed the reported numbers were “inaccurate”. It’s understood that numbers indicate there were 57 absences at the assembly.
A spokesperson for the Department stood by the school’s decision to ban the students.
“We understand some students and parents are upset by the decision of the school, however all Mackellar Girls students and parents were given written and verbal advice on the expectations around uniform and behaviour on multiple occasions since the start of the school year,” they said.
“This included specific advice to students and parents that acrylic nails were not acceptable at school and in particular for the Year 10 assembly.”
The spokesperson claimed only 20 of 239 Year 10 students at the school did not receive their portfolio on stage due to their acrylic nails, however they were in the hall for the assembly.
However, Chrissy believes the 70-student figure is accurate. She says there were around 50 girls kept in her classroom, in addition to another room of girls who didn’t get let into the assembly.
“The teachers were even saying that they disagreeing with what they were doing but they couldn’t do anything about it,” she added.
Although her daughter won’t be returning to NBSC Mackellar Girls Campus in 2023, Sarah says she’s speaking out because she doesn’t want future students to be treated in the same way.
“To me, the way those girls were treated is not acceptable. We’re living in 2022,” she said.
“I just don’t want to see it happen to girls in the future.”