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Ottawa school dress code: Students and parents outraged by ‘humiliating’ blitz


Students at an Ottawa high school are protesting after teachers and staff conducted a dress code ‘blitz’ which students say left them feeling degraded and humiliated.

The blitz at the Béatrice-Desloges Catholic high school in Orleans on Thursday provoked immediate outrage from parents and students, who believe the actions went too far and appeared to be aimed only at female students.

Sophie Labbée, 18, was one of the students called out of class because of her wardrobe. She said a teacher told her her shorts were too short.

“She said they had to be mid-thigh, and had me do this weird test where I bend my knee and she touched my thigh and showed me it was my mid-thigh and if it was was shorter than that it was inappropriate,” she told CTV News Ottawa.

“I didn’t appreciate that. It made me feel uncomfortable and it was a little humiliating, because it was in front of other classes too.

Labbee is 5ft 10in and says the shorts are always a bit shorter on her. She said she was told to report to the principal’s office, but instead left the school because she was allowed to as an adult.

“I just don’t appreciate being uncomfortable with my body just because of the clothes I’m wearing. It was kind of dehumanizing.

A note from the school principal sent to parents on Thursday evening says that since the Easter holidays staff have held meetings with pupils to remind them of the school’s dress code, including examples of what is accepted and not accepted. They then led the blitz on Thursday.

“The blitz exercise was done in all our classrooms, to ensure compliance with the dress code,” says Marie-Claude Veilleux in the note to parents in French.

Veilleux said staff had to ask several students to change clothes and bring some students to the hallway to clarify the dress code.

“I would like to emphasize that the interventions of the staff members were made with respect for the dignity of the students,” she said. “The school administration recognizes that the strategy used could imply that students have been targeted. Far be it from us to want to offend some people, and we are sorry if some students perceived it that way.

Students protest outside an Ottawa high school a day after a dress code “blitz” that singled out students for their wardrobes. (Natalie van Rooy/CTV News Ottawa)

Students gather in front of the school

The students demonstrated on Friday by marching between a nearby park and the school, many of them wearing shorts in protest. Students held signs in French that read “Why just girls? They have scheduled an additional walkout next Tuesday.

Police arrived at the protest to help school staff. Police say a youngster who was not a student at the school was arrested for causing a disturbance and trespassing. He was escorted off the property and released without charge or ticket, police said.

The protest ended just before 1 p.m.

School board takes allegations ‘very seriously’

The French Catholic school board said in a statement that it takes complaints and allegations about the approach taken to reminding students of the school’s dress code “very seriously”.

“The administration is aware that various versions describing the situation are circulating in the community,” the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est said in a French-language statement to CTV News Ottawa.

The board says Superintendent of Education Jason Dupuis and Chief Human Resources Officer Laurie-Eve Bergeron met with several students and school staff Friday morning to discuss the blitz.

“These meetings will shed light on the events so that measures can be put in place to prevent this type of situation from happening again.”

The CECCE says the board and school will “continue to engage” with the school community to address concerns about the dress code and to “ensure that a positive, healthy and safe learning environment is provided for all students.” students”.

Dupuis, the CECCE superintendent of education, told Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron that he spoke with 12 students and staff on Friday morning about the dress code blitz.

“We can admit, obviously, what was done yesterday was not normal procedure and we could have handled it differently,” Dupuis said Friday afternoon.

“Most of the cases were girls who were taken out of class and asked, ‘Do you think your shorts were long enough?’ or the staff would ask them to determine if it was mid-thigh or not.

“We have already told parents and staff that this is not a normal procedure and that there are certainly other ways of doing it. The approach, more of an individual or discreet approach, is something more appropriate for a school setting.”

Dupuis says the principal and school administration decided to conduct a dress code enforcement blitz to remind students of the rules.

The CECCE will review the dress code currently in place at Béatrice-Desloges high school and possibly make changes for the rest of the school year, according to the commission.

“Let’s look at what we can change to be more in line with 2022 fashion,” he said.

Dupuis said he spoke with students who took part in the protest outside the school.

“I want to let you know that we agree that what happened yesterday was not the most appropriate and your message has been heard and we will make some changes.”

Dupuis and council staff will continue the investigation into dress code enforcement on Monday.

Parent “in shock”

Parent Streetstarphanie Lalonde said her Grade 11 daughter was not among those targeted because she was wearing a sweater, but was still shaken by the event.

“I was shocked. It reminded me of some sort of 1950s thing,” she said. “Looks like they were targeting girls. The fact that they were told to bend down and measure, I don’t have the words to describe it. He feels authoritarian.

Thursday was the hottest day of the year in Ottawa so far, with temperatures reaching 30°C.

“They should be able to dress comfortably for the weather,” Lalonde said. “I’m very proud of the students who stood up and organized.”

The school dress code states that students should come to school in clean, decent and appropriate clothing. Among other things, he says that clothes should be without vulgar or offensive words.

It also states that pants, skirts or shorts should be “of an appropriate length (mid-thigh) and worn so that my underwear is not visible.”

The dress code also states that tops must fully cover the upper body and shoulders of an appropriate width.

A school board superintendent said the board received “numerous emails” Thursday about the blitz and will be on hand to meet with staff and students to investigate.

“Board administration has learned that staff conducted an audit to correct some elements of the school’s dress code,” Dupuis wrote in an email to a parent on Thursday. “I take complaints and allegations very seriously and want to assure you that I intend to be present at school tomorrow morning to better understand what happened and verify the facts.”

More soon….

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