A London, Ont., teen says she was sent home from school for wearing ripped jeans and a tank top to class on Monday.
Laura Anderson said the vice-principal at A.B. Lucas called the clothes "inappropriate" and in violation of the school's dress code.
"They just said that what I was wearing was not appropriate for school and that I should not be able to be seen in school until I change," said Anderson. "I went home and changed into regular jeans and a baggy t-shirt, but felt very sad about the incident and very degraded by the incident."
Anderson said she's not a troublemaker and, at the time, accepted what the vice-principal told her to do.
"My intention was not for it to be sexual...I have the right as an individual to wear what makes me feel comfortable." - Laura Anderson, Student
The Grade 12 student who will be attending Queens University next year for literature, is on student council and said she has respect for the administration at the school.
"My intention was not for it to be sexual. I don't put on shorts or tank tops so I get sexual attention from men or other people at my school," she said. "I put it on because it's hot outside and I think I have the right as an individual to wear what makes me feel comfortable."
Students to wear ripped jeans, tank tops
On Wednesday high school students from A.B. Lucas as well other schools in London will dress in support of Anderson by wearing tank tops and ripped jeans.
They will also be using a hashtag saying #mybodymybusiness.
"This incident has given people a chance to really open up their voices, and really give themselves confidence in what they believe in and what they think they should be allowed to do," said Anderson.
Anderson wants to sit down with administration, the superintendent and student council at Lucas and discuss whether the rules regarding dress code need to be evaluated.
"As educators I understand that they care about us, but believing that they're wrong about this, I really want to work with them to redefine what they think about dress code," she said.
Dress code petition started
Classmates have rushed to defend Anderson's choice of clothing.
In a Facebook post, Sophie McGregor said "what is most amazing about this whole thing is the fact that I was wearing a short sleeve t-shirt and short shorts."
"I am revealing more skin than my friend," McGregor continued.
Ashlyn Nicolle started an online petition at change.org in support of Anderson.
"To ask female students to put sweaters on and 'cover up' to ensure the male students are not distracted or exposed to female sexuality is sexist and outdated," Nicolle wrote. "This standard presumes that female students are considered a distraction and therefore it's a female's actions that must be policed.
"The sexualization of a teenage girl's body is not her problem, it is the problem of those who choose to sexualize a 17-year-old's body."
Nicolle wants wording in the school's dress code reworked.
"A.B. Lucas seriously needs to take another look at their dress code and reconsider the lines: "clothing must not be inappropriately revealing" and "administration will determine what is considered to be appropriate dress for school", because they are imprecise, unjustified, and resulting in the punishment of students for the administration's ambiguity," the petition reads.
The petition has been digitally signed by 1,500 people.
School superintendent weighs in
Lucas principal Tom McLeod declined to speak with CBC. However, Sheila Powell, the school's superintendent spoke with CBC's Gary Ennett.
Powell said she cannot comment on Anderson's specific case, but added that each school has a specific dress code.
The dress code is reviewed every year with students and parents, she said.
"Student protests always offer opportunity to engage in dialogue and discussion about what's appropriate and why there may be rules, if they need to be changed." - Sheila Powell, Lucas superintendent
"When concerns arose yesterday about a student's attire, the school code was followed, and the student was given an opportunity to address the concerns and comply with the dress code that is outlined for them," said Powell.
She said administrators will enforce the dress code when the students dress in solidarity with Anderson on Wednesday.
"Student protests always offer opportunity to engage in dialogue and discussion about what's appropriate and why there may be rules. If they need to be changed and if the protest raises the opportunity for discussion with students, the principal very much welcomes that opportunity," said Powell.
The school has its "dress expectations" online:
- Clothing must not be inappropriately revealing and free of profane or vulgar language. Shirts must cover the midriff and the back.
- No references to drugs, alcohol, sex, demeaning or offensive slogans.
- All shorts and skirts should be past the fingertips of your outstretched hands.
- Skirts, shorts and pants should completely cover undergarments.
- Pants must be able to stay up at the waist.
- No hats or head wear. Hats may be confiscated if worn in school. Only head wear worn for religious or medical reasons is exempt.
- Administration will determine what is considered to be appropriate dress for school.
- Students who do not conform to this guideline will not be allowed to attend classes and will be sent home to change.