Nfld. & Labrador

Focus group sessions planned after Beaconsfield students call dress code 'very sexist'

A Grade 9 student from Beaconsfield Junior High in St. John's is fighting her school's new clothing policy, saying it's unfairly targeting girls at the school but not the boys.

Students say girls unfairly targeted by new dress code that says no shoulders, knees exposed

Students say Beaconsfield school clothing policy is 'very sexist'

6 years ago
2:01
Some girls at Beaconsfield Junior High protested their school's dress code by wearing clothes they're not allowed to. They say the rules are sexist. 2:01

The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District says it is engaging with staff and students at Beaconsfield Junior High in St. John's after a group of students called the school's new dress code sexist.

Students starting enlisting support through an online petition that says girls are being held to a different standard than boys at the school. Some violated the new dress code Thursday by showing up wearing shirts with straps, shorts and skirts.

Grade 9 student Grace Fitzgerald said the policy — which doesn't allow bra straps, bare shoulders and bare knees to be shown — is not being enforced evenly between genders.

"They just recently started enforcing it and they're quite strict about it actually," she told CBC's St. John's Morning Show, Thursday"Boys have been in school with shorts and summer tank tops and nothing has been done or said."
Grade 8 student Sarah Leonard says she and other female students wore tank tops and shorts and skirts to school at Beaconsfield Junior High on Thursday to protest a dress code policy she says unfairly targets girls. (CBC)

She thinks that with temperatures warming up, it's unrealistic to expect students to not wear summer clothing.

"It's warm in the school and we don't want to be in trouble every time we wear our own clothes," she said.

"I would think it was reasonable if they made a general rule like no super-short shorts, nothing too showy, and for guys no underwear — nothing unfit for school."

Fighting the policy

Fitzgerald said to protest the rule, girls have been putting posters around the school.

One of the posters said "I'm a 15 year old girl. If you are sexualizing me, YOU are the problem."

A group of students made posters to put around the school, all of which were quickly taken down by school staff. (Submitted photo)

"We actually started a petition on change.org, and we are posting signs all over the school. We're just really trying to fight this, because it's very sexist," said Fitzgerald.

Grade 8 student Sarah Leonard said there's an unequal standard between boys and girls at the school, despite teachers saying it's been enforced for both.

Leonard said she wore a tank top to school Thursday to protest what she believes is an unfair policy, and while there's an understandable line on what should be worn at schools, the policy is too strict.

"Guys get to walk around with their underwear hanging out and their jeans down to their knees and they wear muscle shirts and stuff and nobody tells them anything. Apparently they get punished for it, but I've never seen it happen," she said.

"And when a girl wears so much as a one shoulder top where you can see her bra strap, she's being sent home so she can put on something less inappropriate."

Meetings planned with staff, students and parents

Meanwhile, Lucy Warren, assistant director of programs with the school board, said they've heard from the students about the concerns raised and will be working with them on a policy that ensures everyone is comfortable in schools.
Lucy Warren, associate director of programs for the provincial English school board, says focus groups have been planned with student groups at Beaconsfield Junior High in St. John's to ensure all students and staff are comfortable with a dress code policy. (CBC)

"We've had a conversation with the school to determine what their plan is going forward because the students have raised a concern, so of course they want to address that," she said.

"They have a school council meeting scheduled for Monday where they'll also get some feedback from parents and based on that feedback they'll go forward to revise their code of conduct so that students do feel comfortable."

Warren added there will be focus groups with students to ensure everyone has a chance to express their concerns about the dress code policy.

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