Headteacher who said short skirts are a 'distraction' faces calls to quit

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THE headteacher at a Scottish secondary school is facing calls by parents to resign for warning female pupils to stop dressing "provocatively" and distracting boys from their studies.

Robert Kelly, the rector of Berwickshire High School in Duns, said girls were encouraging "inappropriate thoughts" among boys by wearing short skirts and camisole tops under half-buttoned blouses.

He pointed to a television advert by Rape Crisis Scotland as evidence of the effect that "skimpy" clothing could have on men.

But Mr Kelly's comments have sparked demands for his resignation by parents, backed by Rape Crisis Scotland, and an investigation by Scottish Borders Council.

Some parents said the suggestion women were to blame for unwanted male attention by their choice of clothing was "offensive".

A member of the school's parent council, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "We feel the rector should resign. Suggesting that girls are responsible for inappropriate male sexual attention by the way they dress is outrageous and deeply offensive, and risks undermining these students' self-confidence."

But education campaigners backed the head teacher.

Nick Seaton, a spokesman for the Campaign for Real Education, said: "Schools have a right to set a dress code with clearly defined rules. If girls are wearing skirts that are too short, then they should be sent home.

"Everyone wants to see youngsters looking smart and children will stretch the rules slightly, but let's not forget children go to school to learn."

The dispute started after Mr Kelly aired his concerns about female outfits during a girls-only assembly at the end of June.

A concerned parent, who complained via e-mail, said she was disturbed to hear about the "content and slant" of the discussion, which she claimed distressed some pupils.

Mr Kelly said he was concerned that "skimpy blouses and extremely short skirts were becoming the order of the day".

He said: "We felt that a girls-only assembly would be the best way to tackle the situation.

"Wearing skimpy, revealing clothes is provocative and distracting for the boys and is sending out all the wrong messages."

Rape Crisis Scotland's advert attempted to challenge ingrained attitudes that a woman's clothing contributes to her being raped.

A spokeswoman for the organisation said: "We are concerned to hear what happened at the school and disturbed at the idea of our advert being used to support this, when we think it is clear that the advert is saying exactly the opposite: that no matter what a woman wears, she is never responsible for rape."

Scottish Borders Council said issues such as rape and provocative clothing were best dealt with in personal and social education classes with both boys and girls.A spokeswoman said: "An issue was raised and is being dealt with through the council's complaints procedure and through discussions."

A recent government survey found that 17 per cent of men thought a woman was "partly responsible" for being raped if she was wearing revealing clothing.