Quebec City high school relaxes dress code in first victory for 'yellow square' movement

A group of female high school students in Quebec City has won the fight to wear shorter shorts and bare their shoulders in the heat of the summer.

Students say school rules should not unfairly restrict girls' clothing

Célestine Udhe, a student at Joseph-François-Perrault High School, said she hopes this victory serves as momentum to the dress code amendment movement. (Radio-Canada)

A group of female high school students in Quebec City has won the fight to wear shorter shorts and bare their shoulders in the heat of the summer. 

It was the first victory for a movement, who dubbed themselves the yellow squares, that is pushing for less sexist dress codes in high schools and has now spread to other schools in Quebec.

Members of the group said they wanted the right to wear common items of women's clothing like skirts and shorts that hit the mid-thigh and spaghetti-strap tank tops, but they were prohibited under their school's rules. 

But the fight was about more than fashion choices. The students say they wanted to push the administration to look at its policies and ensure they were treating male and female students equally.

They also wanted to combat the hypersexualization of female students in an educational environment. 

On Monday night, Joseph-François-Perrault High School's governing board voted unanimously to relax some elements of the dress code starting next school year. In addition to changing hemlines, students will now also be permitted to wear a hood or hat in the school's halls, but not in the classroom. 

"It's small step in a big movement," said Célestine Uhde, a student at the school who founded the movement. 

"I'm very proud because it will certainly help other schools, other places to see, yes it's possible. Things are really moving forward."

Growing movement

High school students at a dozen schools in Quebec starting wearing yellow squares to show they support having more freedom in their dress code.

Uhde and three others started a Facebook group called Les Carrés Jaunes, or The Yellow Squares, which has more than 1,300 likes so far.

Posts on the page include stories about dress codes at different schools.

Not all school administrations are supportive of the movement and think changes may negatively impact the school's functioning.

Two members of the yellow square movement outside their school in Quebec City, Joseph-François-Perrault High School. (Marie-Maude Pontbriand/Radio-Canada)

At Charles-Gravel High School in Saguenay, about 200 kilometres north of Quebec City, a protest against the dress code was shut down last Friday.

At Joseph-François-Perrault High School, administrators stood firm on the prohibition on strapless garments. Marlène Bureau, the school's principal, said the changes were agreed upon after several discussions with parents and students. 

She said the greater school community was proud of how the students organized and spoke publicly about their cause. 

"Now we hope to move on to other things and get into preparation mode for the end-of-year exams," she said. 

With files from Radio-Canada

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