Police told Villa Maria girls they were 'asking for harassment' with short skirts, student says

The officers were at the Villa Maria Metro station, next to the school, as part of the force's campaign against sexual harassment in Montreal's Metro system.

Montreal police inspector says language barrier likely produced misunderstanding

Michaela Fleming said she was shocked when female police officers told her that rolling up her uniform skirt could make her more susceptible to harassment. (Submitted by Michaela Fleming)

Female students at Villa Maria High School say Montreal police officers told them they were "asking for harassment" for wearing short uniform skirts.

The officers were at the Villa Maria Metro station, next to the school, as part of the force's campaign against sexual harassment in Montreal's Metro system.

Student Michaela Flemming said she was interested in hearing what the female officers had to say until they brought up the length of her skirt and the habit some girls have of rolling their waistband. 

"[She said] by rolling our skirts like that, Villa girls are giving off an image of flirtation, an image of provocativeness and essentially asking for the harassment that we receive," Flemming told CBC's Daybreak.

The school would not give an interview, instead sending the dress code, which doesn't allow for rolled kilts or for the kilts to be above two inches from the knee.

Flemming said she understands why the school has those rules.

"As a school, you do want to have an image that reflects upon you positively," she said.

A miscommunication, police say

Police Inspector Carol Lalonde, head of the SPVM's Metro unit, told CBC in an interview that there was most likely a miscommunication between the officers and the students.

She said the officers' first language is French and the message of dressing to avoid harassment is not what police officers want to communicate to the public.

"If such remarks are made, it's inappropriate and the police service doesn't approve," she said.

Lalonde said they are looking into exactly what happened.

With files from Elysha Enos

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