Auckland's Diocesan School for Girls to allow hijab after uniform policy backlash

An elite Auckland girls' school will allow Muslim students to wear the hijab, after facing backlash over previous uniform policy which did not allow the religious garment.

Diocesan School for Girls said on Thursday its uniform policy did not allow for hijabs - a rule potentially in breach of the Human Rights Act.

The private school costs upwards of $19,000 per year to attend, and the school said on Thursday parents were told the rules when enrolling their daughters.

"Diocesan is a choice for an outstanding education by many parents," principal Heather McRae said on Thursday. "As a private girls' school, we value and celebrate diversity and inclusion. Our uniform policy is developed to help create a sense of oneness and family and is worn with pride by our students."

After backlash, the school now says it will allow Muslim students to wear the hijab if they want to.

"The response from our community has been overwhelming, both from those who support Diocesan's uniform policy and from those who have an opposing opinion," McRae and board chair Andrew Peterson said in a statement on Friday.

"Diocesan School advises that it is clarifying its intent by revising its school uniform policy so that any student who wishes to wear the hijab can do so.

"After undertaking careful and considered discussion and receiving community feedback, we believe a revision of our uniform policy is appropriateā€¦ We believe that now is an appropriate time to revise our policy to allow for the wearing of the hijab by our Muslim students who wish to do so."

The school said it was "disappointed" with media coverage "for all our students who are so accepting of all cultures and creeds".

It said it would observe the two minutes of silence, and is supportive of the "Scarves in Solidarity" event.

"Any girl or person who wants to show their respect for Muslim families affected in Christchurch by wearing a hijab to school on this day is most welcome to do so."

International attention for the 'ban'

Turkish state-funded broadcaster TRT World posted a story online on Thursday talking about the school's 'ban' on hijab. It said a former teacher approached them with concerns about the policy.

The teacher said there was a briefing for staff regarding students wearing hijab, where McRae said the policy was not new and teachers were expected to enact it.

"She said 'and of course, you've all signed onto this. I want you to support this position, not oppose it.'"

He told TRT World other teachers didn't know about the rule, and were stunned.

"There was just silence. I got the feeling that people were shocked this was a thing."

'Deeply disappointed'

Former students started a petition against the uniform rule, gathering more than 600 signatures. In a letter to McRae, the former students said they were disappointed in both the policy and the school's response.

"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."

The letter asked McRae and the school to review and change its uniform policy to be more inclusive, and to apologise for its response.

"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."

Newshub.