Year 10 group banned from end of year ceremony for acrylic nails
False fingernails, upset students and a social media storm dubbed #nailgate by angry parents have put one NSW high school in the spotlight after an end of year assembly went awry over acrylics
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Dozens of students were banned from an end of year ceremony at a Sydney public high school because they were wearing false fingernails.
Mums and dads say students were stopped from entering the hall for the final year 10 assembly at Mackellar Girls’ High School on Monday.
Parent Rody Handcock said when her daughter arrived for the assembly at the northern beaches school, she and her schoolmates were gathered in a quadrangle — away from their parents who were being seated in the hall — where a staff member asked any girls with acrylic* nails to step forward.
“Teachers individually inspected their hands and my daughter was told her nails were not acceptable and she was put in the cluster that was told ‘you’re not going into the assembly’,” she said.
“Those girls were then put in two classrooms at the back of the school. None of these girls were mentioned in the ceremony.”
Ms Handcock, who was in the hall, received a text message from her daughter saying she was not allowed in.
“I left the hall to find my daughter, but I was waved away from the classroom,” she said.
“I rang the Education Department and made a complaint.”
Ms Handcock said her daughter was among up to 40 girls made to sit in a classroom while the event went ahead.
Many of the girls had their nails done for the year 10 formal held on Thursday last week, and many planned to attend the local boys’ year 10 formal on Tuesday night – the day after the Mackellar assembly.
But the girls were told that acrylic nails breached* the school’s strict dress code.
After the school was inundated* with complaints from upset parents, most of the girls were allowed out to stand and watch from the back of the hall, but were still prevented from participating.
Ms Handcock said the name of each girl who completed year 10 was read out, except for those who were wearing the nails.
“I understand, to a point, there needs to be a dress code, but this was a very, very extreme reaction by the school,” she said.
Another mother, Kirstin Billington, whose daughter April was kept apart, said her youngest daughter was due to commence year 7 in 2023 but would now not be going to Mackellar.
“The school is supposed to be nurturing, encouraging and supporting the girls,” she said.
“Just to have that as their last day at school, segregated* out … because they’ve got nails on. The school knew they had a formal last Thursday. The school is just out of touch.”
One father, who asked to remain anonymous, said his concern was his daughter being taught “how a woman looks is more important than what she does”.
“I want my daughter to be empowered* by school, not shamed by it,” he said. “I am pro-uniform and understand the need to have rules. But those rules need to be reflective of the world we live in, prioritise the education of our daughters and (celebrate) their successes.”
The father of two said he was “devastated” to learn from his daughter of "a long list of similar incidents" at the school.
“Personally, I am more concerned to learn that while the school has recently approved shorts to the uniform, there exists a culture within the school that girls who choose to wear shorts aren’t allowed on stage or to represent school,” he said.
“I think it is scandalous* that the school is building a culture where girls who choose not to wear a skirt are treated as second class citizens.”
The NSW Education Department said it understood “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,” the spokesman 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.”
Additional reporting by Kids News.
- acrylic: combined polymer paste that is bonded to the natural nail
- innocuous: harmless, inoffensive, causing no injury to anyone
- breached: breaking a rule, law, custom or practice
- inundated: a lot or too much of something to the extent that it can’t be dealt with
- offensive: insulting, rude, disrespectful
- segregated: set apart from others of the same kind or group, separated
- empowered: feeling confident and in control of one’s life and future
- scandalous: something that makes people shocked and upset
- What year were the affected students in at Mackellar Girls’ High School?
- Approximately how many girls were moved to classrooms away from the hall?
- What was the anonymous father’s concern about the shorts uniform policy?
- What was the likely explanation for so many students wearing acrylic nails on Monday?
- What specific advice was given to students and parents, according to the NSW Education Department?
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1. The perfect school uniform?
Design the perfect school uniform – you can design one for girls, one for boys and one for everyone.
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Visual Communication Design; Textiles and Design
“Rules are rules – no exceptions!” Do you agree with this statement? Write your list of reasons why or why not.
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Curriculum Links: English; Personal and Social Capability
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Create a conversation between two characters from the article – you may need or want to include yourself as one of the characters. Don’t forget to try to use facts and details from the article to help make your dialogue as realistic as possible.
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