A local newspaper report outlining alleged “body shaming” at a school in Carlow, which was based on inaccurate social media claims, has been criticised by the Press Ombudsman.
Presentation College Carlow was at the centre of controversy last year over false allegations that female students at the school had been told not to wear clothing that made male teachers uncomfortable.
The false claims resulted in an online petition about “sexism against female students”, which received thousands of signatures.
The principal of the school, Ray Murray, spoke on national radio where he pointed out that the claims were incorrect.
Students had received a reminder about uniforms, relating to changes concerning the wearing of training gear on PE days, which resulted in false rumours that the reminder was due to discomfort among male staff.
The Press Ombudsman has upheld a complaint made by Mr Murray over a report in the Nationalist in November 2020, according to The Irish Times.
The sub-head on the article read: Teenage girls told not to wear tight clothing as it made teachers “uncomfortable”.
In his complaint, Mr Murray 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.
In a statement, the Press Council said the editor of the Nationalist said it had become aware of the petition posted on Facebook, along with online comments from parents, some of whom were interviewed.
The editor said the paper had sought a response from the school, offered a right of reply, and stood over its reporting.
The Nationalist also said that had the school responded, “this complaint might never have arisen”, according to the Press Council statement.
Mr Murray said there was no response from the school as it did not want to “provide fuel for the fire of a non-story frenzy circulating on social media”.
The Ombudsman concluded that 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 welcomed the findings.