news

School forces 14-year-old girl to shave under her arms. Is that okay?

A mother wants answers from her daughter’s school, after they forced the teenager to shave her armpits.

A mother wants answers from her daughter’s school after they made the teenager shave her armpits while in front of other students.

Melissa Woods is the mother of 14-year-old Taylah – who has a disability – and was in a life-skills program at Wangaratta District Specialist School in Victoria when she was asked to shave.

Ms Woods told 3AW that her daughter was “extremely upset” after being made to shave her armpits in front of the class and says that she never gave the school permission for her daughter to participate in that part of the lesson plan.

“I spoke to the teacher the very next day and she told me she has the right to do it, it’s part of the curriculum,” Ms Woods continued.

“I wasn’t satisfied with that so I went to the principal and sent her a letter. She wrote back saying… she regrets that they didn’t have a permission slip for me to sign.”

Taylah has a neurodevelopmental disorder and ADHD and her mother says that the girl had previously been averse to shaving.

Ms Woods said that she was happy for Taylah to move at her own pace and told her daughter, “That’s fine. I have no problems with it. You come to me when you’re ready.”

The Herald Sun reports Ms Woods saying, “She came home in tears and said, ‘They shaved my arms’, and that she hadn’t wanted it done.”

“I asked her if she told the teacher that and she said, ‘I don’t know’ — she has expressive language problems. But I don’t think they have any right to do that.’’

While Ms Woods says that the school has “invaded her rights” by shaving her daughter’s underarms, the school principal Libby Hosking has replied, telling Fairfax that the overview sent home in the final week of term one explains the curriculum for the next term.

“This is a very sensitive issue,” she said. “We’re very concerned and regret that the family and the child were very upset.”

The Herald Sun reports:

“Taylah was asked by the staff member, who said, ‘It looks like you are having some trouble with that. Would you like me to help you?,’’’ she wrote.

“Taylah replied that she did want help. At no stage or at any time did Taylah tell the teacher that she did not want to participate. Further, at no stage did the teacher feel that Taylah was uncomfortable or was feeling anxious about the activity.’’

The principal also said that she regretted that a specific permission slip had not been sent home and that the school would be doing so in the future.

Ms Woods has replied that while she saw the lesson plan overview, she assumed that the class would only be talking about shaving.

The mother will now be taking the matter up with the school’s regional director.

What do you think? Should the school have shaved Taylah’s arms without seeking permission, particularly when they were aware of her expressive language problems?