Makayla King, a teenage girl from Truro, N.S., is facing suspension after she wore shorts to school that administrators deemed inappropriate, prompting her mother to launch an online petition urging the school to re-evaluate its dress code.
Julia Davison said her daughter was recently disciplined for wearing shorts to Truro Junior High School.
Davison said she spoke with the vice-principal, who told her the discipline would get progressively more severe — from detention to an in-school suspension to an out-of-school suspension — if her daughter continued to wear the shorts.
"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," Davison said of the shorts, which she helped pick out.
"There's no set guidelines that dictate what our children should wear."
Davison and her daughter, who is in Grade 8, aren't backing down. She launched a petition Monday morning that had garnered more than 5,200 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.
Davison said the rationale offered by the school was that the shorts could distract boys and staff.
"I don't agree with it," Davison said.
"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. They have a great group of male teachers. We've never had an issue with any of it."
'It is a judgment call'
Debbie Buott-Matheson, a spokeswoman for the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board, said the issue was not about one gender being distracted by another.
"They do use as a general guideline — you hang your hands down at your sides when you're standing up and if the shorts come down to the end of your fingertips, that's a pretty reasonable length," she said.
"That can be different depending on the student. Some students are taller, some students are shorter, arms are longer, arms are shorter. It is a judgment call for administrators."
Davison said the school needs to set out clear guidelines and keep in mind girls should be treated the same as boys.
Her daughter believes the current attitude of the school is unfair.
"It's not really fair the girls can't wear their shorts during the summer when it's hot out and the guys have the option to," Makayla said.
"If girls can't, it's not really fair, because it is getting warmer out and it's not fair to make us have to stay in jeans all school year."
Davison said the response to her petition has largely been positive. Several students are also siding with Makayla.
"I think we should be allowed to wear short shorts as long as nothing's showing, like your butt or anything," said Emily Yuill, 13.
Olivia Meech said the problem isn't short shorts, but rather the boys who should be taught to be respectful.
"Girls should be able to wear what they want," she said.
Darren Shannon, a parent, said he thinks the school is blowing the issue out of proportion.
"Honestly, I think the girls should be able to wear shorts," he said.