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Row over school claiming short skirts lead to sexual harassment

Parents have hit out at a headteacher who they say told girls that wearing shorter skirts would encourage sexual harassment.

Children returned to Bishop of Hereford’s Bluecoat School this month and sat through an assembly about their new school uniform.

But acting headteacher Martin Henton has been criticised after the topic of discussion turned to ‘sexual threats’ and harassment.

A school has come under fire after a headteacher apparently told students that short skirts attract sexual harassment. File photo

Parents say girls came home in tears after believing the message was that shorter skirts would encourage sexual predators.

Mr Henton has denied accusations of ‘victim blaming’, insisting the girls must have misunderstood the message of the assembly.

Mother Ceri Robinson, 43, said she has no problem with the new skirt, but is ‘stunned’ it has been linked to sexual harassment.

She said: ‘My daughter and her peers were told the longer skirt was aimed at keeping the girls safe from sexual harassment. I am quite stunned that this was deemed acceptable.

‘The endorsement of the view in the 21st Century that women and girls have to protect themselves from sexual harassment can be the fault of the victim has a negative impact on the young people who should have trust in the school.

‘Any victim of any kind of abuse should be confident in talking to a teacher. The message of this assembly undermines that.’

Students at Bishop of Hereford's Bluecoat School say the comments came in an assembly

Students at Bishop of Hereford’s Bluecoat School say the comments came in an assembly

Another parent, who asked not to be named, said: ‘My daughter came home in tears and asked me if she should chuck her skirts.

‘I asked her what was wrong and she said the girls had been told that wearing short skirts was putting them in danger.

‘I was appalled. My daughter dresses like any other teenager does. Why should she feel like she’s to blame if someone decides to harass her.’

Defending his comments, Mr Henton said the assembly addressed two subjects; uniform and sexual harassment.

He insisted: ‘The second issue discussed was about safeguarding issues following the high-level reports last week regarding alarming online potential sexual threats to children.’

The school's headteacher has insisted the idea that 'length of skirt' and harassment are linked was 'not the intended message'

The school’s headteacher has insisted the idea that ‘length of skirt’ and harassment are linked was ‘not the intended message’

He added: ‘As part of are statutory responsibility to safeguard our students we took the decision to address this in the assembly.

‘There is no link between the length of the skirt and keeping girls safe from harassment. This was not the intended message during assembly.’

He has set up a ‘working group’ to discuss the issue further.