BENDIGO principals have spoken out about a regional school's decision to photoshop student portraits, with one saying it is "not a school's right".
Piercings, blemishes, acne, monobrows and freckles were airbrushed out of school portraits at Daylesford Secondary College last week, outraging students and parents.
It has since sparked a national discussion about self-esteem, identity and image.
While many local principals remained reluctant to comment, Catholic College Bendigo acting principal Michael Chalkley said the school had never discussed photoshopping as an option.
He said school photos had nothing to do with how students should look.
“To be honest I don’t believe it’s our right to say what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to school portraits,” he said.
“I certainly haven’t heard of schools in our system doing this because the photos are for the parents and for identification."
Daylesford Secondary College principal Graeme Holmes has conceded the school took the "wrong approach" in removing piercings and said original portrait photos would be provided at no cost to families.
To be honest, I don’t believe it’s our right to say what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to school portraits.Michael Chalkley
Most principals said they had never heard of the practice, but one Bendigo member said he had experienced a similar situation.
"I have a child at a small country primary school and they photoshopped a cut off his face when he was injured," he said.
But Youth Council of Victoria chief executive Georgie Ferrari said this case was different.
She said photoshopping images of teenagers without consent took away their power and played into a damaging discussion already present in mainstream media.
“This tells them they’re not okay as they are ultimately, no one has the right to decide how that image is portrayed without any consent,” Ms Ferrari said.
“It’s a dangerous trajectory and is reinforcement of all those messages already being sent to our youth that without photoshopping, you’re not good enough.”
Mr Holmes maintained the changes were made due to school policy.
He said while students were allowed to have facial piercings, those piercings must only be studs, and could not include rings, sleepers or hoops due to safety reasons.
"Next year, we will ensure that students have plenty of notice that they will only be able to participate in school photos if they meet our uniform policy," he said.