Auckland Grammar students are criticising the school for not allowing single tickets to be purchased for the annual ball.
The information sheet provided to Re: News for the 2023 Auckland Grammar School annual prefects’ ball says “single tickets are not available”.
Tickets for the ball due to be held in August this year cost $305 and cover “the entry cost for you and your partner”.
A student who Re: News is calling James says the decision to exclude single tickets “has deeply disappointed and frustrated many of us” and “sparked a wave of discontent”.
“It is essential to recognise that not all students have partners.”
James did not want his real name used as he says he is nervous about how the school would respond to him speaking to media.
Auckland Grammar Headmaster Tim O’Connor told Re: News via email: “The Prefects’ Ball is a highlight of the year and led by our Form 7 students. It’s a formal event with partners, not a dance, and is optional to attend.”
Mr O'Connor did not provide any further comment.
‘They said you have to go with a girl’
James says his peers at the all-boys school asked the school’s leadership team if they could attend with a male friend but were told only gay students could attend with a male partner.
“They said you have to go with a girl, and you can't go with a guy unless you're gay.”
Students were also told they could not just pay for a double ticket and show up solo.
“They've stated that you can't do that. They wouldn't let you in at all.”
Even if a student did plan to go to the ball with a girl, but the girl got sick or had to pull out on the day, they would not be admitted if they were alone and they would not receive a refund, he says.
“That’s what we've been told from leadership - you'd have to go home.”
This is the only ball at the school, he says, and is one of the biggest things people look forward to before they leave high school.
“It really sucks because I was really looking forward to the ball, so I'm pretty disappointed,” James says.
“I’m really not sure why this is happening, it's quite an old traditional school, so it might factor into some of their decision making.”
“[School staff] haven't offered an explanation, and they sort of just ignore [us] when we ask. I asked a teacher and they said they are not allowed to talk about it.”
A second student, who also did not want to be named so Re: News is using the pseudonym Sam, says he tried to speak to four or five different staff members about the issue but “they just don't really want to comment on it.”
“Only one of them has said it’s not fair, all the rest have not given any comment.”
He doesn’t know how long it has been a policy at the school for but says a friend who graduated in 2022 confirmed it was the same last year.
‘Asking a girl out is a really daunting situation’
James says as a teenager it’s “a really daunting prospect” to ask someone out, made even worse by the pressure to do it for the first time just to be able to attend the school ball.
“You're at that age where everything is really awkward, asking a girl out is a really daunting situation, especially for those who haven't had a girlfriend before or asked a girl out before, it's quite a pressure situation to do so.”
“It’s quite hard to find a girl out of school if you've been in an all-boys high school for the last five years, especially with lockdown.”
Sam has has never asked anyone out before and he feels nervous.
“I feel it’s unfair cos now I have two weeks to find a date, and I'd much prefer to go with my friends.”
James says the decision has created a division among pupils, “generated a sense of exclusion” and in some cases forced students to find last-minute dates just to be able to go to the ball.
He says students were given a week and a half to find a partner, as they were given the information form on Wednesday and have until next Friday to fill it out.
“This decision not only undermines the inclusivity that our school should strive for but also adds unnecessary stress and pressure on our students during an already demanding time.”
Top photo: An exterior general view of Auckland Grammar School on October 20, 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
This story has been edited to add comment from a second student.
You can contact the author of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org
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