Disgruntled students at an Ottawa French Catholic high school in Orleans took to the streets on Friday to protest a dress code enforcement blitz the day before, in which mainly girls were called into the hallway to see if their clothing complied with the rules.
several students in École Secondaire Catholique BéatriceDesloges told CBC they saw staff asking other students to bend over to measure the length of their shorts and dresses, something the school board says it is looking into but says “nothing indicates” has happened so far.
“It’s stupid. It’s infuriating. It’s disgusting behavior from adults,” said Jamie Raymond, one of dozens of students who demonstrated outside the school on Friday.
“We’re kids. I’m 15 years old. Most of these students are under 18. It’s not okay for them to bend down and… check if you can see their underwear.”
Police arrested a young man at the protest, but Ottawa police said in a statement Friday afternoon that he was not a student and was causing a disturbance and trespassing. He was escorted off the property but was not charged or fined.
On Thursday, some students were sent to the office and some parents were notified that their children needed a change of clothes.
Secondary Catholic School Béatrice-Desloges has a dress code that states shorts and skirts cannot be shorter than mid-thigh, according to Jason Dupuis, superintendent of education for the French Catholic school board tip des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECE).
The policy is not new to students or parents and was developed in collaboration with them, he said.
While incidents of noncompliance are typically handled with discretion, Dupuis said, school staff decided to hold a compliance drive Thursday in light of the recent heat. Thursday’s high reached 30 C in Ottawa.
Some children were pulled out of class, “but I would say the vast majority were girls,” Dupuis said.
“Nothing indicates” measuring or bending over, says the board
“Obviously, with the hot weather and all that, it was important to remind students of what … is appropriate to wear to school,” he said.
Dupuis added that “nothing indicates” that staff actually measured clothing or asked students to get down, “but we are continuing our conversations with them to see what happened, and if we need to do anything.” [changes]we will do it.
“We want students to feel good in their environment and in their school.”
The heat-related explanation didn’t sit well with student Ava Cléroux, who said she saw teachers ask a group of four girls to bend down to assess the length of their clothing.
“It was 30 degrees. We’re dressed for the weather. We’re not dressed to impress anyone,” Cléroux said. We are here for our education, and if we are going to be kicked out of school, what education do we have?”
Sorry if students felt ‘objective’
In a letter sent to parents the Thursday after the bombing, director Marie-Claude Veilleux of Secondary Catholic School Béatrice-Desloges wrote that some students were asked to go out into the hallway “to clear the code,” Veilleux wrote.
“I would like to point out that the interventions of [staff] they were made respecting the dignity of the students,” the letter reads in French.
School administrators acknowledge that the approach could have left some students feeling “attacked,” Veilleux wrote, “and we are sorry” if some students perceived it that way.
Discussions with the student government and parent council about how best to enforce the code are ongoing, he added.
On its website, the CECCE says that dress codes at its schools are set by principals “in cooperation with students and staff” and in consultation with school boards.
Dupuis said dress codes are “touchy” issues at the board’s high schools, and she’s not surprised some students have a problem with them.
She also said that fashion changes and school boards have to adapt, but while they can accept certain things, “some things [they] can not.”
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