Reports of ‘body shaming’ at Carlow school criticised by Press Ombudsman

School’s board of management welcomes outcome of complaint

Presentation College Carlow was the subject of false claims on social media which led to an online petition against “sexism against female students” which was signed by thousands of people. Photograph: iStock

Presentation College Carlow was the subject of false claims on social media which led to an online petition against “sexism against female students” which was signed by thousands of people. Photograph: iStock

 

A local newspaper report about alleged “body shaming” at a school in Carlow, which was based on inaccurate claims on social media, has been criticised by the Press Ombudsman.

Presentation College Carlow was at the centre of a social media storm last year caused by false allegations that female students at the school had been told not to wear clothing that made male teachers uncomfortable.

The false claims on social media led to an online petition about “sexism against female students” which was signed by thousands of people.

The principal of the school, Ray Murray, went on national radio to point out that what was being claimed on social media was incorrect. A reminder to students about the rules on uniforms, in the context of changes governing the wearing of training gear on PE days, had led to false rumours that the motivation for the reminder was discomfort among male staff.

The Press Ombudsman has upheld a complaint by Mr Murray about a report published in the Nationalist in November 2020, which appeared under the headline: Anger at “body shaming” of girls in Carlow school.

The sub-head on the article read: Teenage girls told not to wear tight clothing as it made teachers “uncomfortable”.

Mr Murray, in his complaint, said it was untrue to say that teenage girls in the school had been told not to wear tight clothing because it made teachers uncomfortable. He also said it was untrue that female students had been told not to wear tight leggings, or to roll up their skirts too short, or to tighten their jumpers, as this was too revealing of their body shape.

Facebook petition

According to a statement from the Press Council, the editor of the Nationalist said it had become aware of the petition posted on Facebook, and of online comments by parents, some of whom had been interviewed.

The editor said it had tried to get a response for the school, had offered a right of reply, and stood over what it had reported. The Nationalist also said that had the school responded, “this complaint might never have arisen”, according to the Press Council statement.

Mr Murray said the school had declined to comment as it did not want to “provide fuel for the fire of a non-story frenzy circulating on social media”.

The ombudsman decided the Nationalist had breached principles one and two of the code of practice, which concerns truth and accuracy and distinguishing between fact and comment.The school’s board of management said it welcomed the findings and wanted to thank those who had stood by the school during a difficult time.