Standardized school dress codes needed, youth group says
Federation of Young New Brunswick Francophones passed the motion during a weekend meeting in Néguac
The Federation of Young New Brunswick Francophones wants to standardize high school dress codes across the province.
The proposal was adopted over the weekend at a meeting in Néguac
The group is also recommending that any sanctions for violating the dress code be applied equally to male and female students.
The federation plans to consult students, teachers, school administrators and parents about the idea in the coming months.
Elyse Hamel with the federation says they want one code to be uniformly enforced to all students.
"Kids do agree that we need a dress code and they need a professional environment to learn in," she said. "But what they don't agree on is how it is applied, for example the fact that it's not applied the same in one school and another."
Two New Brunswick schools have become the centres of controversy over dress codes in recent months.
A group of Fredericton High School students protested the school's dress code in the fall.
The young activists felt the dress code was a symptom of what they call rape culture: a climate that blames women for the sexist behaviour of men such as leering, catcalls and harassment.
The protest led to suspensions but eventually the school administrators and activists began working together to tackle sexual assault and other issues at the 1,900-student high school.
Each high school writes it's own dress code and Hamel says the rules aren't evenly applied.
"In certain school it wasn't allowed to show shoulders, for example, but in other schools it was perfectly fine," she said. "What was also found was that for certain schools was girls could not show their shoulders but boys could."
The issue flared up again when Lauren Wiggins, a 17-year-old student at Harrison Trimble High School in Moncton, received a detention for breaking the dress code and then a one-day suspension for complaining to the vice-principal.
Wiggins said she was told the full-length halter dress, which exposed her shoulders, was considered "inappropriate" and a "sexual distraction" to fellow students.
Hamel says it's sexist.
"The way it is applied and explained is very sexist in itself so when you say, tell a girl you can't wear this because boys will be distracted there's something very problematic at the basis of that," she said.
In an email statement to CBC News, Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Serge Rousselle said:
"As schools and school districts are responsible for the establishment and management of dress codes this is something that would need to be discussed with all school districts. The department and the school districts regularly discuss matters of school district policy that affect all schools."