Grade 11 student Lindsey Stocker and her classmates at Beaconsfield High School in Quebec were told to stand up in class last week so a pair of school officials could look at their outfits.
Put your arms by your sides, and if your shorts or skirts don’t reach your fingertips, you’re in violation of the school’s dress code, the officials told the students.
Stocker said she felt humiliated.
"When I started explaining why I didn’t understand that rule, they didn’t really want to hear anything I had to say, and it was in front of my entire class. I felt very attacked … and I wanted to tell them how I felt," Stocker said, adding that many of the rules in the dress code appear to specifically target girls.
"They should approach it in a way that doesn’t target girls at least — for starters — because that’s the first problem. They don’t really care what guys wear. They just kind of target the girls first."
Stocker left the classroom and printed off about 20 posters inspired by an image on Tumblr that read: “Don’t humiliate her because she is wearing shorts. It’s hot outside. Instead of shaming girls for their bodies, teach boys that girls are not sexual objects” and posted them around the school.
Within minutes, the posters were taken down and she was in the principal’s office. She was suspended for one day for a variety of infractions, Lester B. Pearson School Board chairwoman Suanne Stein Day told CBC's Daybreak Friday.
Stein Day said that the rules apply to both boys and girls.
“The boys can’t run around with their belt buckle low on their bottoms so they have their underwear showing,” she said.
Stein Day said the rules at BHS aren’t that strict, considering there is no uniform. She added that once the students move into the workforce, they may need to abide by an employer's dress codes.
“You have to abide by the rule of your employer, society in general,” she said.
Canadian girls told to cover up
In the past month, similar run-ins between students and school administrators have been cropping up elsewhere in Canada.
Earlier this week, about 30 students at Menihek High School in Labrador City, N.L., were sent home because of attire deemed to have violated the school's dress code — including wearing sleeveless shirts and having bra straps exposed.
Last week Tallie Doyle, a Grade 8 student in Ottawa, was told to cover up after attending school wearing a tank top that exposed her bra straps.
In mid-May, a Truro, N.S., teenage girl was disciplined after her shorts were deemed too short by school administrators.
"Her shorts are modest, they're normal length, they're not ripped, they're not torn, they're not too low on the waist. Nothing's showing that shouldn't be showing," said Makayla King's mother, Julia Davison, of the shorts she helped pick out.
Davison said the reason for the rule offered by the school was that the shorts would be too much of a distraction for the male students and teachers at the school.
"It's being made to look like a lot of the male students and male teachers in the school have that problem, which is completely unfair to them, as well," Davison said.
'Humiliating' dress code check
Stocker's encounter set off a firestorm of activity on social media, and inspired other young women at her school to put on their shorts, too.
The BHS dress code reads:
“Students must dress appropriately for school. Ripped or torn clothing, short shorts or skirts, T-shirts with unacceptable language or promoting violence, drugs or sexual innuendo, halter tops/tube tops/bikini tops, visible underwear, low-riding pants, excessive cleavage, outdoor clothing and attire exposing the midriff are all forbidden in school.”
Fellow BHS student Lauren Paquay, 15, showed up to school wearing shorts today. She called Stocker’s statement inspiring, adding that the dress code verification — making the girls stand up and put their arms by their sides to measure shorts and skirt lengths — is “humiliating.”
"People should be able to express themselves." Paquay said.
"People are being judged for the way they dress, they have to change because boys look at them. The boys should be the ones who have to learn to treat women better and look at them in a different light,” the young woman continued.
One father dropping off two girls at school today — one of whom was wearing a short skirt — said he asked his daughter before leaving home whether she was sure she wanted to wear that outfit.
"She said she was good," said Brian Dollimore. He said that there are rules for a reason, but that some rules could be excessive.
A male BHS student told CBC News he supports Stocker.
“If she doesn’t have the right to cool herself down that way, then how else is she supposed to keep cool in 30-degree weather?” he said.
Stein Day of the school board agreed with the general sentiment behind Stocker’s letter regarding boys being taught not to sexualize girls. She told CBC Daybreak host Mike Finnerty that she admired Stocker for standing up for what she believed in.
“I like that she’s sticking up for herself, but I think there are more positive ways to achieve your end goals and to make your point. She could have written a project about this, she could have written an essay about this, she could have presented to her classmates and the administration,” Stein Day said.
Meanwhile, at least one parent thought Stocker went too far.
Linda Stachula, whose 15-year-old goes to BHS, said Stocker should abide by the rules.
"I think there has to be a dress code,” she said. "She went a little extreme on that one."