Ottawa students, parents furious over ‘humiliating’ high school dress code blitz

Students at an Ottawa high school protest after teachers and staff carried out a dress code ‘blitz’ that the students said left them feeling humiliated and humiliated.

Thursday’s eruption at Béatrice-Desloges Catholic secondary school in Orleans sparked immediate outrage from parents and students, who said the actions went too far and appeared to target only 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 should be mid-thigh, and had me do this weird test where I bent my knee and she touched my thigh and showed me that was my mid-thigh and if it was shorter than that, it was inappropriate,” she told CTV News Ottawa.

“I couldn’t appreciate that. It made me feel uncomfortable and it was a bit humiliating because it was for other classes too.”

Labbée is six feet tall and those shorts are always a little shorter on her. She said she had to report to the principal’s office, but instead left the school because she’s allowed to as an adult.

“I just don’t appreciate being uncomfortable about my body because of the clothes I’m wearing. It felt a bit dehumanizing.”

A note from the headmaster sent to parents Thursday evening says staff have been holding meetings with students since the Easter break to remind them of the school’s dress code, including examples of what is and isn’t accepted. They then performed the blitz on Thursday.

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

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

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

CTV News has contacted the school board for comment.

Parent StTo bephanie Lalonde said her 11th grade daughter was not among the chosen ones because she was wearing a sweater, but she was still shocked by the event.

“I was shocked. It reminded me of something from the 1950s,” she said. “It feels like they were targeting the girls. The fact that they were told to bend over and measure, I have no words for it It feels authoritarian.”

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

“The schools don’t have air conditioning, they need to be able to dress comfortably for the weather,” Lalonde said. “I am very proud of the students for resisting and organizing themselves.”

The school dress code states that students must come to school in clean, neat and appropriate clothing. Among other things, it states that clothing should not contain vulgar or offensive words.

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

The dress code also says that tops must completely cover the upper body and shoulders with an appropriate width.

Students have planned a demonstration on Friday, with many wearing shorts in protest. They have an additional strike planned for next Tuesday.

A school board director said the board received “many emails” about the blitz on Thursday and that he would be on site Friday morning to meet with staff and students to investigate.

“The Council administration has been informed that staff has conducted an audit to address some elements of the school’s dress code,” Jason Dupuis wrote in an email to a parent on Thursday. “I take complaints and allegations very seriously and I want to reassure you that I will be at school tomorrow morning to better understand what happened and to verify the facts.”

More to come….

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